Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party A Revolution of the Heart
by Tara Ann Thieke
Hikikomori and kodokushi ring strange in the American ear, but these two Japanese words come across the Pacific heavy with misery and foreboding. The danger and doom contained in those words are apt to be dismissed as uncomfortable. Yet, to ignore them is to betray the lonely and most vulnerable among us.
Hikikomori means “shut-in,” an individual who has opted out of Japanese life. Rather than face the economic and cultural pressures of their society, they have chosen a life lived from the security of the bedroom, perhaps venturing to the rest of the home on rare occasion. The process has been observed to begin with teenagers but is not limited to them. Every day more Japanese reject the world and turn to their computer or television as a replacement for people. Parents and loved ones watch in helpless confusion and despair.
Kodokushi means “lonely death,” a phrase which arose to note the increasing number of Japanese people who die alone in their apartments, unnoticed, uncounted, unmourned. No one sings hymns at their funeral, and their bodies often aren't found for weeks or months. So many have died in this way that they have became more than an aberration for a gruesome newspaper story, but a public health concern.
The hikikomori and kodokushi are the dead canaries in the coal mine, the casualties our successful planners and managers refuse to acknowledge as they continue to predict endless progress and stack utopian scheme upon utopian scheme.
There is pressure to sweep these phenomenon beneath the rug by classifying them according to the tidy criteria of neurology and pharmacology: these poor individuals suffer from some form of autism or aspergers. This is a neat way to ignore correlation with unprofitable facts, a way to ignore how we are affected by our environments, and that we make deliberate social and political choices (or refuse to make choices and let 'the market' as run by billionaires choose for us} precisely because we believe they will shape our lives for the better. When the results are ugly we stick in our earbuds and walk a little faster, hoping the suffering of others is just an issue of chance or chemicals, and has nothing to do with us.
How did a tightly knit society which placed an emphasis on service and devotion to family collapse in living memory into a nation of atomized youth and elderly locking themselves away and waiting for death? Japan, a deeply imperfect and strict hierarchical country, fixated itself upon the desires of the global economy as they sought to re-define themselves in the wake of military defeat, and in so doing they ignored the needs of human beings.
There are an estimated 700,000 hikikomori in Japan today, with an average age of 31. As the phenomenon began only a few decades ago, society remains unclear as to what will happen when their current providers can no longer support them. Millions are estimated as at risk of making a similar retreat. Causes have been listed as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, independent thinkers who cannot conform, a failure of transition markers to help young people step into adulthood, middle-class wealth allowing a greater degree of indulgence, internet addiction, an anti-family working environment, and a school system unable to recognize how its rigidity has segregated youth into a “caste system,” depriving them of external perspectives.
It could be worse. The hikikomori have walked away from society; others reject life itself. Japanese schoolchildren kill themselves at horrific rates, most often on September 1, the first day of the school year. Japan, notoriously, has one the highest suicide rates in the world. Meanwhile, middle-aged and elderly adults are dying alone. Of course, bright young things and tech firms have a (profitable) solution: robots. Robot pets and robot caregivers will take care of those elderly who can afford them. What is lost by replacing human interaction with pets is not considered. Alternatives are never imagined. Theories are pronounced that those elderly who reject bureaucratic assistance only do because of a culture which prizes a "stiff upper lip." The idea that people could be motivated by something other than the desire for a check for the pharmacy, or that health could depend on feelings of purpose, connection, and meaning are laughed at. Programs save people. Robots save people. Anything a person could do a robot or program can do better. It's repeated over and over, and yet for all the new experiments and plans the Japanese are haunted by ever more kodokushi.
What is that to us? We're Americans. And what does politics have to do with it? It’s a cultural issue. It’s in Japan. The Japanese are weird. The end.
But we are our neighbors, and the worldview Japan placed its hopes in is the same bell jar we live beneath. While the coloring of local institutions necessarily affects the speed of certain trends, the entire purpose of the global economy is to swallow the local, dissolve the community, and isolate the individual as ever perfect worker, ever perfect consumer. And, occasionally, as ever perfect voter, nodding in perfect synchronicity with the overlords of our technocratic-administrative utopia.
Japan is the canary in the coal mine. We have only to blink, to break the hypnosis demanded of us by the economy, the media, our tech monopolies, and our politicians to see despair has not only come for us, but has seeped into our homes. Our suicide rates climb and all our concern about mental health has not stopped the ominous rising of numbers, numbers which testify to a crisis of despair.
Once upon a time in history, political participation was not the realm of credentialed experts walled off in capital cities determining what the masses would be permitted. Politics was not the domain of your betters, our RANDian managers determined to impose uniform solutions on unique people and places. Politics was, to Aristotle, the art of delineating the good life with your neighbors. The idea that we could have meaningful discussions about the good life through the media, through avatars, or impose standardized solutions upon millions of people would have shocked him, the rest of ancient Greece, and most cultures and people up until the 20th century.
Politics begins in the home, but for us it ends in the home. The home is, as Wendell Berry wrote, simply the place where consumption happens. The elderly are removed. The children are sent out during the day and given over to video games in the evening. Nothing is made. We "netflix and chill" at our best; we "hikikomori" and drug ourselves into apathy and death otherwise. Nobel-prize winning economists Deaton and Case noted in their study on rising morbidity: "Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress," but who can count body bags when the blue haze of the screen requires all our attention?
Aristotle wrote: “A state is not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime for the sake of exchange.... Political society exists for the sake of noble actions, and not of mere companionship." If only Aristotle had known one day we could be Minecraft heroes with robot girlfriends! His interest in the good life, in questions of scale and governance have long been brushed away. A state is a place to safe-guard consumption and selling; citizenship is replaced by passive consumers or those driven by a brutal system of employment where ideas of vocation and purpose are a joke.
What remains of the political discourse the masses are permitted to hear is shaped by a class of DC lawyers who place much confidence in their own prognoses while being entirely uninterested in finding out whether their answers work. They keep their focus on power through strategy, candidates, and ignoring deep policy questions, let alone first principles or consequences. Combined with a social media driven-culture that eschews conversation in favor of signalling one's allegiance to the "good" tribe by offering infinite hot takes and engaging in mob-driven flare-ups, there is absolutely no possibility for us to look, listen, and hear the cry of the broken.
It is relationships which save people. Programs are a distinctly secondary effort, but they are now deemed our sole salvation. Globalism and the free market, which of course is not "free," are one more variation of the technocratic path to a promised land they can never really describe beyond "flying cars." And with the transfer of sovereignty to planners, politicians, businessmen, and other managers, individual initiative is crippled, and those unable to swim with the sharks retreat into a bubble they can control. Faced with the tyrants of modernity, an increasing number of people choose the last spaces they can control. They will die alone if needs be; they will choose the drugs that speed their death, the games and shows they spend their life upon. They have looked at the system and they, for whatever reason, "prefer not to."
The human heart and soul cannot be measured, but the technocratic manager is deaf to the long, low cry of the heart. Our political parties concern themselves with winning elections rather than opening themselves up enough to pay attention, ask questions, or hear policy proposals which don’t fit their pre-packaged narrative. They build brands instead of asking why brands have not made people happy. They tout college degrees as the literal definition of success. But you cannot kiss a cubicle, you cannot love an acronym, you cannot watch last year's vacation take its first steps, you cannot encounter mystery or receive freely given love from a robot, and a college degree will not hold your hand when you die. They have not dared to approach first principles, which would not be so bad if their answers were not total systems, winnowing out anything beside the lowest common denominator of "happiness."
Robert Kennedy, a politician of a different stripe for at least the duration of this speech, famously spoke: "Gross National Production counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
Here are some statistics about life in modern America:
Suicide rates are increasing every year.
Teenagers and children face a particularly gruesome escalation in suicide statistics.
Teen depression is rising at a frightening rate.
America is in the grips of the most powerful opioid crisis it has ever seen.
The number of homebound, elderly Americans who are all alone has never been higher.
Young African-American men face a crisis of PTSD, unemployment, incarceration, and abuse.
Poor men without college degrees are disappearing from the work force.
Americans are facing rising levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The use of antidepressants has increased almost 400% since the 1990s.
Children, especially boys, are increasingly drugged.
Foster care children are the most drugged of all.
Alienation, however it manifests, is killing millions of Japanese and Americans alike.
Japan has a crisis of loneliness and despair. American also faces a crisis of loneliness and despair. We are victims of a “Bigger Better Faster Stronger” narrative which surrounds us on all sides, telling us life has never been so good. The costumes are glitterier, the trends faster, the prestige tv shows darker and grittier, the fashion more absurd, the music louder. Bonus: stock prices have never been so high.
The culture shouts everything is wonderful and flying (or at least self-driving) cars will be here momentarily, then whips its head around and sells conflict and division in the next breath. Everything is terrible unless we accept the new product, the new solution. The next policy will change our lives, the next candidate will change the world.
We need a politics which does more than try to win elections. We need a politics that worries about more than electable candidates. We need a politics where people outside the gated communities and best neighborhoods are heard, not managed. We need a politics that does more than encourage polarization and self-righteous tribalism. We need a politics that listens for even a few minutes. We need a politics unafraid to ask what a good life looks like beyond "college degree, resume, travel, maybe 2 children, pets, access to cutting-edge technology and fine dining." A politics that asks what makes a community, what makes a home. A politics that asks if machines serve people, or if people serve machines. A politics that asks how many people have to die to acknowledge despair is a political issue. A politics that asks if the best end of a human life is to be surrounded by robot dogs. A politics that asks why no children play in the street. A politics that asks what progress could ever mean in a world where any child commits suicide, let alone one where more and more do so.
The canaries fall down.What does it mean to reach through the noise and realize we hear their song no more? Who is our neighbor? Whose agenda do we serve? Do we know where we are going, and what it costs to get there?
We must resist allowing the politicians, advertisers, and self-proclaimed experts who brought us this Brave New World to continue offering solutions which only benefit them, and even then only seemingly. The self-indulgence of the managing class assumes happiness is rooted in numbers, charts, and stock points; in growth and progress everlasting do they place their trust. But growth and progress as a standard mean nothing if you do not know where you want to be, and they are outright reckless if you do not know what growth bases itself upon. Our politicians and leading managers and elites refuse to face how the luxury of their lifestyle depends upon wealth transfer and the destruction of other communities. They refuse to face how their own children are suffering. We must not swallow easy solutions because we are afraid of asking hard questions.
The bells fall silent, replaced by engines and noise. There is no communal touchstone to mark the passing of our faceless neighbors. Every hour souls slip away around the corner and through the cracks, unmissed, unhailed. We must pray for those with no one to pray for them. We must pray for the canaries. As the ambulance turns off its lights to cart another stranger away, we should recall that beneath the spell of illusion reality remains ever the same:
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
The concept of subsidiarity is often associated with a myriad of other concepts. Among these are some such as federalism, and libertarianism, which are judged differently by different people; and others, such as racism, which have an almost universal negative connotation. The purposes of this post are 1) to disentangle the concept of subsidiarity from those various concepts associated with it; and 2) to thereby disentangle these concepts from each other.
Let us begin with some definitions:
By 'subsidiarity', I mean the principle that those functions which can be performed at a lower level of society should not be usurped by a higher level.
By 'localism', I mean a philosophical ideal according to which economic and political functions within a society should be performed at the smallest level at which those functions can be properly achieved.
By 'federalism', I mean the principle that those functions which can be performed by the various state governments should not be usurped by a federal government under whose jurisdiction they stand.
In some cases, the term ‘federalism’ is used synonymously with ‘defederalization’, to refer to the process whereby responsibilities currently fulfilled by the United States federal government are transferred to state governments, regardless of their suitability for being performed at the local level. In what follows, I leave this definition aside.
By 'libertarianism', I mean a political philosophy that aims at the maximization of individual liberty, understood as the freedom to choose between a multitude of options for the greatest part of people within the body politic, as its goal.
‘States’ rights,’ refers to the real or imagined right of a state subordinated to a federal government to self-determination with respect to the mode of society instantiated within its borders, as against the real or imagined threat of encroachment by the aforementioned higher sphere of government.
The concept of ‘states’ rights’ is thus only applicable in federations, wherein both a more local, state government, and a broader federal government exist at different levels. At the level of international relations between countries under a common international body (as in the European Union), it has an analogue in the notion of national self-determination, according to which a nation has the right to determine the mode of life instantiated within its borders free from the real or perceived encroachments of international bodies under whose jurisdiction it stands.
Racism is an ideology according to which some individuals are superior to others by virtue of their race, where ‘race’ refers to a collection of characteristics loosely determined by biology, outward appearance, and collective history, upon which certain other mental or spiritual characteristics are thought to supervene.
3 States’ rights and racism
3.1 The construction of the association between states’ rights and racism in post-Civil War historiography
Certain connections between some of these concepts are faintly detectable at first glance. Others, however, lack clear conceptual relations. The chief outlier among these is racism, which bears no clear conceptual connection to the various other concepts mentioned above. Rather, the relation between these concepts is a historical, accidental, one, and even there largely confined to United states political history.
The connection between racism and states’ rights was largely drawn in the aftermath of the United States Civil War, and developed in the dialectical retrospective of historians respectively favoring a ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ interpretation of its events.
Initially, certain authors sympathetic to the position of the U. S. Confederacy had begun to argue that the chief issue at stake in the war was not slavery, but the rights of the states to determine their mode of life.
In response, others championing a northern perspective pointed out that the chief right at issue was the right to own slaves, philosophically justified by the belief that black men and women constituted an inferior race to white persons.
As the northern interpretation of the conflict maintained or regained its dominance in various intellectual and popular circles, the term ‘states’ rights’ began to be itself treated contemptuously as a euphemism for racism.
Today, this treatment of the concept of ‘states’ rights’ has a limited presence in the academic sphere, and a more widespread one in the public eye. Since roughly the 1960s, this tendency has been exacerbated by a) the presence of genuine gains on the part of those peoples descended from slaves achieved by federal, rather than state, means; and b) the use of these gains in propaganda to combat defederalization initiatives of any sort, and especially those that would be pertinent to race relations.
It remains important to note both the contingency and the provincialism of this connection. In Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, for instance, racism appeared not in the form of states’ rights movements, but rather as collectivist movements at the national level, erasing both internal distinctions between provinces and external borders between nations (in the case of the annexation of Austria) in favor of union under the concept of the national race. Likewise, modern first-world imperialism, according to which various non-western nations are made to conform to the cultural mores of western ones, arguably represents racism in an international form.
The Dorothy Day Caucus upholds the stance of the American Solidarity Party, condemning the philosophy of racism in all, including its modern imperialist, forms.
3.2 The false assimilation of states’ rights and racism
The primary difficulty with this assimilation of states’ rights to racism, whether found in expressions of southern identity in former confederate states or in denunciations of southern culture in northern ones, is its falsity.
That there was no connection whatsoever between the concept of states’ rights and the ideology of racism as embodied in the institution of race-based slavery, is clear from the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which arguably represents the point past which internal military conflict over the issue of race-based slavery became inevitable. In the background to that decision, a slave-owning family brought their slave to a non-slave-owning state and resettled there. The slave, Scott, had argued that by being brought into the territory of a free state, he himself became free in accord with the laws of that state. As such, Scott’s argument represented an appeal to state rights to self-determination with respect to the mode of life instantiated within its borders, and specifically to determine whether the mode of life instantiated therein would or would not include the institution of slavery. The rationale behind deciding against Scott, by contrast, was decidedly antithetical to the states’ rights mentality, as were its effects: it appealed to the right to property as a universal right enshrined in the constitution at the federal level, thereby effectively erasing the distinction between free and slave states, and establishing a universal right to slavery in its place.
In this way, the association of racism and states’ rights promulgates a historical inaccuracy, and the conceptual connection between these thereby does not even arise to the level of an accidental connection in the way intended. Rather, the association of racism with states’ rights, even when intended to undermine states’ rights, itself serves as a medium for the propagation of a post-civil war racist mythology.
Note that this differentiation does not yet pronounce on either the intrinsic value or the utility of the notion of states’ rights itself. For that, the reader is encouraged to continue.
4 Federalism and libertarianism
4.1 The conflation of federalism, libertarianism, and states’ rights advocacy in American political discourse of the last decade
In recent memory, the connection between libertarianism and federalism was effectively forged during the 2008 campaign for president of U. S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas. The tendency to view Paul as a libertarian was supported by his having previously been the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988; and, benefiting from the conflation of his views with libertarianism, by his failure to explicitly differentiate his philosophy from libertarianism in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. But that this label was never a completely good fit for Paul can be garnered from his reticence in explicitly applying the label to himself; and from his 2008 public endorsement not of the Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, but rather of Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin. Likewise, during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, expressed this same reticence at first by referring to himself as not libertarian, but ‘libertarian-ish’, and later by dropping the libertarian label altogether in favor of the moniker ‘constitutional conservative’.
Rather, the political philosophies of both the elder and younger Paul were, and are, better expressed as a commitment to defederalization, rationally supported by appeals to a) efficiency b) the principle of federalism, and c) an interpretation of the tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution according to which the U. S. Federal government is barred from the performance of certain functions not explicitly assigned to it in that same Constitution.
4.2 The identification of libertarianism and federalism constitutes a category mistake; the consistency of anti-federalist libertarianism
Thus, though a loose political alliance between federalism and libertarianism has been re-forged in the United States over the last decade or so, this does not yet imply any conceptual identification between these two. Rather, libertarianism and federalism differ to the point that their identification constitutes a category mistake: the one is a political philosophy, the other a principle governing political functions. Far from being the same thing, they are not even the same kind of thing.
Furthermore, As a political philosophy, libertarianism says nothing whatsoever about the means to be undertaken in the establishment of the aim of maximizing individual liberty. Thus, the relationship between libertarianism and federalism is strictly orthogonal. One can consistently advocate for a libertarianism that makes extensive appeal to federalism. But libertarianism is also consistent with the adoption of anti-federalist attitudes on any number of issues.
That this is so is clear from the presence of such an attitude on three widely-discussed topics in politics today: abortion, gay marriage, and drug policy. On gay marriage, 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson advocated not for leaving the determination of marriage law, where it traditionally had been prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, in the hands of the states, but rather pledged to support the Federal law on the matter, determined in the aforementioned Supreme Court decision. 2008 candidate Bob Barr advocated not for decriminalization of marijuana, but rather for the drug’s legalization; and since its naissance, the dominant viewpoint in the Libertarian party has expressed strong support not for overturning Roe v. Wade and those cases in its wake protecting or expanding legal access to abortion (thereby allowing different states to have different laws on the matter), but for upholding these federal decisions. Thus, what is arguably the dominant tendency in Libertarian thought on a number of fundamental political issues is not federalist, but rather opposed to the principal of federalism.
4.3 The superficial objection to libertarianism and states’ rights
Over the same time period as those tendencies described above, and especially during the elder Paul’s 2012 campaign, Paul’s political opponents embarked on a campaign to assimilate his federalism to states’ rights advocacy, and, by the same lack of reasoning present in section 3, thereby to racism. While there were genuine questions about Paul’s opposition to the details of the 1964 civil rights act; his use of ghost-writers, some of whom expressed racist comments, in a periodical circulated under him in the early 1990s; and about his views on whether federal law should be used to address problems of discrimination, especially on the part of business owners, none of this is yet to suggest any conceptual connection between libertarianism and states’ rights, or between either of these and federalism.
Rather, the conflation of these views is largely founded on a misapplication of the logical principle of excluded middle. According to the correct understanding of the principle, for any proposition p, either it or its opposite must be true at a given time. For instance, it is or is not raining; it is or is not legal to run a red light in Trenton; the political philosophy of libertarianism is or is not consistent with the presence of racism in society.
The legal misapplication of the principle, however, makes the inference not from a state of affairs to the negation of its opposite, but from the failure of a law to support (or oppose) a given stance x on political issue y as support for (or opposition to) the contrary of x.
Suppose that right now that I am drinking too much coffee. Now, there is no federal law preventing me from drinking too much coffee. But neither is there a law requiring, encouraging, or otherwise supporting it.
The point is obvious enough in the aforementioned case, but tends to get lost in discussion of more emotionally charged issues. In this way, the absence of federal law defining marriage liberally is construed as anti-gay; advocacy for the decriminalization of a given drug at the federal level – i.e. making it a matter on which the federal government says effectively nothing – is conflated with advocating for its legalization, etc. In short, on any given issue, silence at a given level of government is construed as advocacy for the contrary stance on that same issue.
4.4 Totalitarianism and the genuine objection to libertarianism and states’ rights advocacy
Now call the fallacious appeal to excluded middle described above the totalitarian fallacy; the progressive tendency towards legal determination of the good embodied therein, totalitarian; and a philosophy of law according to which law is expected to pronounce, at a given jurisdictional level, on one or the other side of any matter of value in a given society, totalitarianism.
Totalitarianism is thus a philosophy of law according to which a given ethical vision of the good, whatever its correctness, is to be wholly embodied in the legal code of that same society at a given level of government.
In current political discourse, the assimilation of federalism to both libertarianism and to racism has its root, in different ways, in the totalitarian fallacy. The call, in the name of liberty, to remove a given issue from government consideration is conflated with the use of government to maximize liberty; the failure of federal law to address racism in a given way is construed as support for racism, etc.
What the above should also make clear, if somewhat surprisingly, is that there is nothing inimical in libertarianism to totalitarianism as such: a totalitarian libertarianism, whereby the aim of maximizing individual liberty is taken as a government prerogative, is possible. Given prominent libertarian support for drug, abortion, business, and marriage laws that (at least superficially) contribute precisely to the maximization of individual choice aimed at by libertarian philosophy, libertarian totalitarianism is arguably a major, if not wholly dominant, form of libertarian philosophy today.
4.5 The analogical character of the relation between states’ rights advocacy and libertarian individualism
Furthermore, though it is natural for totalitarian tendencies to manifest themselves at the highest governmental level in a given society at that time, there is nothing inherently preventing its implementation at lower levels. This brings us back to states’ rights.
The notion of a right embodied in states’ rights advocacy, as in its analogue in the notion of national self-determination, is both ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ in different ways. It is thin in that it refers only to the right of self-determination, connecting this right neither to other rights, nor making mention of the responsibilities with which rights correlate. But it is thick in that the application of this right lacks any intrinsic limit to its expansion. The right is thus limitless in its applications. In this notion, self-determination is regarded as the right of a state to construct or build a certain way of life within its borders. It is thus the putative right of the law within a given set of boundaries to fully implement a certain vision of society within those boundaries. It is thus the real or perceived right to the exercise of choice, conceived after the pattern of human choices, transferred onto the state.
The ‘rights’ discourse envisioned in states rights’ advocacy thus represents an expansion of the goals of libertarianism from human persons to include corporate individuals. To the degree that it ascribes these rights to states, it is materially inconsistent with the ascription of these same rights, as in traditional libertarianism, solely to individuals: to ascribe the prerogative of determination to the state is correspondingly to diminish the share in this prerogative ascribed to individuals. But states’ rights advocacy achieves its formal character via a transformation of the fundamentally libertarian ideal for human existence, the expansion of the possibility and range of choices, lifted from individuals and grafted onto states. The same process is also found in the notion of ‘right’ found in the discourse of national self-determination, as well in that of corporate personhood in the business world.
Thus, the mentalities present in states’ rights advocacy, national self-determination, and corporate personhood, while materially inconsistent with libertarian individualism, nevertheless are saturated with its formal content. This transference of agency is part and parcel of the shift from classically liberal to neoconservative economic theory, where the primary actors are no longer conceived as individuals, but as states, through enactment of liberal law, and corporations, through the promulgation of consumer choice, both at the service of the libertarian ideal.
In short, there is thus nothing inconsistent in the concept of a libertarian totalitarianism; beyond its loose political alliance with libertarianism, states’ rights advocacy is conceptually analogous to libertarianism in its focus on self-determination, understood after the pattern of human choice; this same analogical transference is functional elsewhere in conceptions of the self-determination of the nation, as well as in conceptions of corporate personhood. Neither states’ rights advocacy nor libertarianism is inconsistent with totalitarianism, and the dominant form of the latter arguably is its totalitarian form.
Adding to this the idealist, totalizing character of progressive liberal political discourse, leaves the greater part of our political discourse as a friendly scrimmage among different totalitarian philosophies.
Now I shall show you a better way.
5 Subsidiarity and federalism
5.1 Subsidiarity in the political and religious discourse of the Catholic Church
Though its presence in mainstream political thought is increasing, the term ‘subsidiarity’ has been lifted largely from the social teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions the principle of subsidiarity on three occasions: the first of these, formulating the principle, is taken from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus:
‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good’ (CCC 1883)
At CCC 1885, the catechism states:
‘The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order’.
And the matter is succinctly summarized at CCC 1894:
‘In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies.’
From the above, we can deduce the following: that certain communities are related to each other as higher to lower; that certain levels of community have essential functions, i.e. functions that belong to them by their nature, in accord with their levels; and that certain actions of the state or other higher bodies can interfere with these functions. Inasmuch as those functions of a given community are its own, they are distinguished from those appropriate to superordinate communities not by their quantity, but by their type. There are thus, certain types of things that, regardless of their goodness, certain bodies should not do.
This is the fundamental point missed in the totalitarian scrimmage described in the previous section. None of these philosophies sets any intrinsic limits to government functions in accordance with its nature as a given kind of government, but rather aggregates ever-increasing functions to it in accordance with demands of the time.
5.2 The derivation of the principle of federalism from the principal of subsidiarity
In contrast with the totalizing tendencies of libertarian maximization of choice, especially consumer choice, the principle of federalism can be straightforwardly deduced from that of subsidiarity, on the simple assumption that state and federal government are related to each other as higher and lower. Proof.
Premise 1: Those functions of a society which properly belong to a lower level should not be usurped by a higher level.
Premise 2: Federal and state governments relate to each other as the governing forms of higher and lower levels of community.
Conclusion 1: Therefore, those functions which properly belong to states should not be usurped by a federal government.
Conclusion 2: Therefore, there are functions which belong properly to states.
Conclusion 3: Therefore, there are functions which it is wrong for a federal government to usurp.
The first premise is the principle of subsidiarity; the first conclusion is simply the principle of federalism as defined above in section 2. The second and third conclusions are straightforward consequences of any non-trivial form of federalism, i.e. any one that also admits the existence of state and federal governments, and functions proper to each.
Federalism, then follows from subsidiarity on the straightforward assumption that a federation represents a different level of society than a state; the principle of federalism is thus a species of the broader principle of subsidiarity.
5.3 Federalism and constitutionalism
None of this is yet to determine what the precise functions of a state or a federal government, as such, should be. Plausibly, the latter includes matters such as international trade relations and defense, but does not include things like mandatory bathroom assignments in accordance with new age religious mores. The responsibilities appropriate to the European Union as a body are not strictly enumerated in the constitution of that body. Nor is it clear which exact responsibilities are more appropriate to Edinburgh than to Westminster – though it is clear that for the government of Westminster, for instance, to take on responsibilities perfectly capable of being carried out in Edinburgh or Belfast, represents a violation of the principle of subsidiarity.
In the case of the United States federal government, however, those functions peculiar to it arguably are more conspicuous: hence, the existence of an interpretation of U. S. federalism, stretching back to Thomas Jefferson and others, according to which the constitutive limits of the U. S. Federal government are given in, well, the U. S. Constitution. While none of this is to say that the model of federal government determined in that document is a good one, it is to say that it is one that has some strictly defined limits written into it, limits which, if they prove to be inexpedient, point minimally to the need for constitutional amendment.
6 Subsidiarity, localism, and the cultivation of real solidarity
Occasionally, one finds the idea that the attempt to defederalize certain government functions pertinent to the material well-being of certain individuals within that state is inconsistent with another principle of Catholic Social teaching, namely solidarity. For this reason, the context of the Centesimus annus quote mentioned above is worth quoting in full. John Paul II writes:
‘In recent years the range of such intervention [viz. by the state] has vastly expanded, to the point of creating a new type of State, the so-called "Welfare State". This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands, by remedying forms of poverty and 'deprivation unworthy of the human person.
‘However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the "Social Assistance State". Malfunctions and defects of the Social Assistance State [Vitia autem et pravitates ‘Civitatis auxiliaris’] are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State [emphasis mine]. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.
‘By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need. One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances which call for assistance, such as drug abusers: all these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care.’ -Centesimus Annus 48
The relevance of the principal of subsidiarity to the expansion of the welfare state, and the problematic nature of the latter, are thus completely conspicuous in the Pope’s thinking about the subject. The encyclical does not locate the problem of the welfare state merely in a failure of efficiency, but in ‘an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the state’: there are, then, according to the encyclical, certain functions that, no matter their goodness, simply are not for the state to do; and among these are functions that were typical of the so-called ‘welfare state’.
On the other hand, the claim that ‘needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them’ is one of the foundational motivations for localism.
Localism, as stated above, is a philosophical ideal according to which economic and political functions within a society should be performed at the smallest level at which those functions can be achieved. Though not all relations governed by subsidiarity are spatial, to the degree that the hierarchy presented in the principle of subsidiarity includes levels of society spatially contained in each other, where the ‘height’ of a given level of society is correlated with its spatial extension, localism represents the ideal limit of that principle: to ascribe each function in accordance with the most intimate body capable of performing it. While there may be extraordinary circumstances preventing the achievement of this ideal at a given time in a given society, it remains the normative ideal towards which the principle of subsidiarity, in its governing of locally subsidiary bodies, remains ordered.
7 In brief
Federalism differs from libertarianism in that the former, like subsidiarity, is a principle, while the latter is a philosophy. The tendency to conflate these two thus constitutes a category mistake. The relation of libertarianism to federalism is strictly orthogonal, and the dominant form of libertarian in the United States today is arguably anti-federalist.
The assimilation of federalism to both libertarianism and to racism has its roots in totalitarianism, an understanding of the role of law according to which its purpose is to fully implement a certain vision of the good at a given level in a society.
Perhaps surprisingly, there is nothing in libertarianism inimical to totalitarianism as such. Every non-trivial form of federalism, by contrast, does provide a limit to the implementation of totalitarianism, at least on the federal level, and hence is not consistent with it. Localism is constitutively inconsistent with totalitarianism.
While libertarianism is not materially consistent with either states’ rights advocacy or the principle of national self-determination as commonly expressed, the phenomena referred to by the phrases ‘States’ rights’ and ‘national self-determination’ are themselves arrived at by a transference of a libertarian ideal onto corporate persons, and thus do not represent a genuine contrast with libertarian philosophy. This same transference is also present in conceptions of corporate personhood in the business world, with the transference there representing an important factor in the shift from classical liberal economic to neoliberal economic modes of life.
The notion of subsidiarity requires that functions appropriate to a given level of society are not usurped by a higher level. The functions of a given body are determined in accordance with its kind. Hence, there are certain functions that, by nature, are inappropriate for a federal government; and others that are inappropriate for governments as such. Catholic social teaching, from which the notion is taken, explicitly links the problem of said usurpation to the growth of the welfare state.
While the limits determining what functions are appropriate to the governing body of a federation as such are somewhat vague, those determining what functions are appropriate to the U. S. federal government in particular are less so. Those functions constitutive of the U. S. Federal government are those, well, enumerated in the Constitution, the remainder being reserved to the states by the tenth amendment, with provision for adding further functions via the amendment process.
Localism represents the ideal limit to which the principal of subsidiarity aims, as it pertains to the relation between levels of society one of which is locally contained in the other. In accordance with the ideal, those various economic and social functions should be allocated at the lowest level at which they can be performed. This aim serves not primarily the goal of efficiency (though it does serve this end, too), but rather that of ensuring that economic and social care maintain its personal, social, and charitable character, rather than ceding to faceless bureaucratism.
This post also appears, under the same title, at https://jacobarchambault.com/2017/09/25/libertarianism-racism-federalism-subsidiarity-localism/
 Note that the definition here given makes no reference to the truth or falsity of the ethical maxims embodied therein. A society that sought to wholly embody the true morality in its legal code at a given level of government, would nevertheless have a totalitarian government at that level. For example, a theocratic government wholly adhering to the true faith, (whatever one thinks that is) and morals (whatever one thinks these are) would nevertheless be totalitarian.
 In this case, too, where the relation is more clearly one between two importantly different cultures, the analogy of this usurpation of duties to imperialism in the international sphere is somewhat more perspicuous.
 I have changed the English translation’s ‘in the Social Assistance state’, to ‘of the Social Assistance state’ in accord with the Latin text, which uses the genitive. Hence, where the Vatican English translation is amenable to a reading on which the malfunctions are merely functions within the state, the Latin text is not, but contains a stronger meaning, ascribing these vices and defects to the kind of state itself.
by Chris Travers
For some time I have been thinking about problems developing in the US regarding cultural shifts in how gender, marriage, etc. are framed, and how innovations in these areas are often pushed on the rest of the world. In this context, we see increasing pressure on private and public schools in the US to conform to new ways of approaching childhood and gender, and parallel efforts to spread these views to other peoples across the planet.
During this process I have had many interesting conversations with friends around the world and across the political spectrum. I have come to understand these changes, ranging from same-sex marriage, to a purported right by children to decide their gender, as efforts to struggle with the inhuman nature of the American social and economic order.
At the outset I must say I believe that, being human, we must treat others in a humane way even if they don’t conform to whatever social norms a society holds. Questions like whether to extend the protections the state offers to married couples to same-sex couples are deeply contextual. But that does not amount to a specific formulation of policy, nor does it mean that the basic functions of social institutions should be undermined to accommodate those outside the norm. This essence of humanity and pooling of common interest is what I consider solidarity, and it comes from a belief that we build common culture by engaging in common cause, rather than the other way around.
What I have observed among my American friends is a very particular mentality. The argument over school showers and gender identity, or same-sex marriage, becomes pitted as an argument about morality vs equality, or some abstraction of liberty. This is thus a piece which attempts to explain why I am not on board with the efforts to rethink gender identity, and why I remain largely on the fence about the appropriate role of state involvement in the question of same-sex marriage.
An enormous part of the argument revolves around basic values. The US today is a place where republican liberalism (and the idea of ordered liberty secured by a representative republic governed by centralised power) is the only political philosophy permitted in the public sphere regarding the direction of the country. Personal choice is the sole metric by which we measure human flourishing. Our main parties are in disagreement about the best path to take, but are in lock-step agreement as to the overall goal.
While some on the left are aware of the issues regarding economic inequality, others are unable to do so. The belief that we live at the apex of history makes it hard to see or grasp the causes of economic inequality. Our problems are not new problems, and the solutions of old-school conservatives such as Benjamin Disraeli and Otto von Bismarck are quite a bit ahead of where even progressives in the US today are willing to tread.
A part of why I am writing this is because I think the relationship between the shifts in how we look at gender and marriage in the US today are actually a product of the structures that enforce economic inequality. I believe we are moving in the wrong direction if solving economic inequality concerns us, because economic inequality is not a problem which can be solved as long as we retain a framework that thinks most problems are a matter of consumer choice.
Contrary to an outlook which reduces the world to a set of consumer choices, choice is not the true metric of human flourishing. Rather, that is measured by two more important concerns: economic security made possible by mutual support, and the health of the private domain, which lies outside the public concern. Concepts like honour are important because they provide a way of decoupling the public concerns from the private means of addressing them. These concerns must support access to economic production instead of economic consumption. An economy where anyone can be a business owner (and has family and social support to make that successful) is fundamentally better at providing security and equity in the economic order than one where everyone crosses their fingers and goes out hoping to find a benefactor (employer).
The real problem behind the shifts in how the country sees gender, transgenderism, same-sex marriage, etc. is not the idea that we should be humane to others or offer a set of functional social protections around whatever marriage has become, but a longer, deeper pattern here which aims squarely at how we think of the human condition as it relates to economic production and to reproduction.
In the US, marriage has long become something where children are an optional choice. As John Médaille has pointed out, the GOP tends to treat family values as consumer choices. In the US the discussion in this area is so thoroughly permeated with liberalism that it is hard to see an alternative.
We have seen capitalism reduce people from producers to consumers. We think about getting a job as we think about getting a car. We no longer think of economic production as a human birthright. And we no longer think about reproduction as a human birthright either.
In the various places I have lived which were most traditional and provided the best economic security for their members, the economy was mostly organised into small family businesses which were inherited by children. Marriage was closely tied to having the children necessary for the business to continue, and also towards the care of elders. Parents get a strong say in marriage in such a place because they literally have to live with the spouses of their children when they grow old. Such an economic and social order, where marriage is closely connected to procreation, to family business, and to care of the elderly, supports a kind of economic security we have been robbed of by Capitalism. Much of our marriage law in the US assumes the same social order exists now, even though over the last century or so we have moved away from this structure.
Such a view of marriage is traditional. It is supportive of traditions because three or more generations often share the same same house, children learn from grandparents and the experience and practical assistance that the elderly have to offer is often appreciated. Far from being a burden, elders are a fundamental asset, allowing children to work harder to keep family businesses going without sacrificing our most fundamental of social bonds — the bond between parents and their children.
What has replaced this traditional organization of generational families and marriage is quite different. With the coming of industrialism, the family businesses was disrupted permanently. First men, then women were forced to work outside the home if they wanted to survive. Children went from being a necessity to a personal hindrance, culminating in our time where the cost of caring for children is the most common explanation given for aborting them. In particular, women were forced from economic roles as joint business producers. They were pushed into either seeking employment, or into a newly-limited domestic realm which had been stripped of productive power.
Culturally we have gone from seeing ourselves as owners of our work and of our tools, of our deeds and the things we create, to seeing ourselves as consumers of everything from jobs to foreign food. This new consumerism is so deeply baked into our way of thinking about the economy that we talk about wanting the rich to create more jobs rather than asking how people can create their own jobs. And we look at marriage as another consumer choice, finding someone to share leisure time with, rather than someone with whom we will raise children, care for parents, and build a beautiful, complicated structure which reflects a shared work and vision. Children become the mere accessory to a marriage, one more consumer choice, not something integral to the social foundations of society or the work of building a productive home.
Thus we are stripped of our access to production. Thus self-dependence of families is replaced by individual dependence on employers. The productive home where generations thrived in unity withers away. When our ability to take pride in making and creating things collapses, then the only domain left to us is that of consumer choice.
In an economic order where marriage becomes the primary source of companionship in old age, it is hard to say something like same-sex marriage shouldn't be allowed. But we fail to ask what the primary source of companionship in old age should be, and I am reminded of Dorothy Day's argument that social security was a theft of responsibility. To this I might add it is also a theft of human contact because it supports loneliness in old age. In my view we should support offering an additional thank-you benefit to people who take in their parents or parents-in-law in retirement. The question which must be front and center is why the choice of a marriage partner shouldn't be a consumer choice, but a reflection of our inherent need and desire to be more than dependent consumers.
The same applies to gender transitioning. This has tremendous implications, ones that last for life, that a child is simply incapable of grasping. It has significant implications for reproduction as well. But instead of considering the intentions and ramifications,every effort is made to gender into another consumer choice. Where gender used to be a social construct based on the intersection of economic production and biological concerns regarding reproduction, today every effort is made separate those concerns. But if feminism therefore rejects this intersection, then we are left in a world where the interests of biological women in reproduction cannot be met or advocated for, where biological women are treated as defective humans to the extent they want children, and where children become the sole prerogative of the wealthy. The wealthy retain the ability to make such a "choice."
After all, it is always against the employer’s interest for employees to take time off for family, and women have less flexibility in maternity leave than men have in paternity leave. An economic economy which leaves little room for procreative families thus insists that biological women pay a higher price in economic production for having children than biological men do. It is for this reason that equal pay for equal work will never bring about economic equality between biological men and biological women as long as reproduction is separated from the economic order, and it can only be justly integrated in a case where it is primarily about the continuity of small household businesses.
At some point we have to ask why our ideas of rights in the US are solely about consumer rights, and why we don't see rights to economic production as bound with our rights in other areas. Why is freedom from reproduction seen as more important than freedom for reproduction? These views of rights cut against the interests of many women and minorities because they standardise a model of normality which is white, male, Protestant, and happy to have a job outside the home.
But this isn’t just limited to the US. It never ceases to amaze me how blind Americans are to the colonial overtones of Google’s “legalise gay love” campaigns in Singapore and Poland. Backlashes against efforts to internationalise these issues often undermine the overall goal of people treating each other humanely. People in many of these countries do not want to follow us into the loneliness of our nursing homes. They do not want to follow us into a world where young people are told to make it on their own and must delay marriage and children. They do not want governments to take over the role of raising children or sharing a community. They are justifiably afraid, and all too often the objects of their fear are not the foreign corporations pushing the issue but the groups the corporations are purporting to protect and defend.
Instead, I think we have as much or more to learn from such countries as they do from us, and perhaps we should seek to reverse the consumerism in sexuality, family, and economic production which has occurred in the West. All too often we have maintained an imperialism of ideas without recognizing what we are doing, and all too often we have been unwilling to connect those ideas to the economic structure to which they are tied. This is not to pick on same-sex couples or trans folk, but rather to point out real problems which affect us all, down to the most basic structure of our daily existence. We can create a society where we can prosper together rather than being rich or poor alone, or grow old in communities of the dying with, at most, the company of one's spouse during a part of that journey.
In the end I am reminded of the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.’
by Tara Ann Thieke
Anywhere USA, circa 2016:
A woman closes her laptop and announces to her husband: "That's the last straw. I can't vote for him. I don't care what everyone we know thinks; he's not a good person. There has to be another way to do things."
A college student looks up from her phone: "Everyone is so angry! I don't think I want to be like that. There has to be more to politics than this sports-team approach...right?"
A man puts down his newspaper. "I can't do it. It's no longer 'safe, legal, and rare.' That was hard enough to stomach, but this party doesn't want my vote. Maybe I won't be able to tell anyone, because of all this name-calling, but there has to be another way."
A young couple leaves a dinner party. The wife turns to her husband as they walk and says: "That wasn't any fun. They kept repeating the same slogans; there's no introspection, no critical thinking. It all seems more complicated than they make it out to be, but it's as if everyone actually enjoys getting so worked up, dividing us into Good vs. Bad. It doesn't make sense to me. I think I have to start looking around to see if anyone is talking about the deeper issues."
Our media and broader culture rely upon division. It's easier (and lucrative) to divide the country up into two teams than to ask questions, some which have neither comfortable nor profitable answers. Each team receives its story, its products, its lifestyle, its brands; suited for battle, they promptly rush upon their neighbor as pundits cheer and check their bank balance.
Despite the constant, shrieking pressure to acquiesce to this narrative and align with Good or Evil, the cracks make themselves more apparent by the hour (thanks especially to the media's creation and subsequent dependence upon a never-ending 24-hour "breaking news" cycle). The internet becomes both blessing and curse: while it may keep us from working in our own communities, it also helps people find like-minded souls and access books and ideas that would otherwise have remained obscure.
As millions of voters shake their heads in disgust and decide they don't fit into the political binary, a third party has to consider what they intend to offer the questioners and wanderers. And here is where the life and death of third parties plays out, over and over and over again.
Since we recognize how the two parties dominate our political landscape through emotional messaging and talking points, we feel pressured to offer our own perfectly baked alternative. Small though our megaphone may be, we want to be taken seriously. The structure that has worked for them should work for us: We want to be professional. We want to have all the answers ready-to-go. We want our menu finished and polished so the citizen who stumbles out of the shopping mall, dazed from years of blazing fluorescent lights and non-stop muzak, can fall into our organic, farm-to-table arms. We want to be ready to catch them and solve every problem. They don't need to think: we've done it for them.
This is the mistake I believe all third parties have been unable to stop themselves from making. It's the trap set up by the structure of the two-party system, and it's nearly irresistible. In the well-meaning effort to be viable, we ignore the needs of the people blinking in the sunlight. Averting our eyes from the slew of third-party failures all around us, we tell ourselves it was the quality of their ideas that kept them on the sidelines and then doomed them to the trash heap. Surely, we dream, we are different. We have Truth. So we lift our megaphone and start shouting at whoever wanders close enough to hear us. It makes sense! We have everything they couldn't find in the two-party system: taste, substance, nutritional value! How can they not rush to embrace us wholeheartedly?
Simple: because people leaving a dogmatic system with all the answers aren't always ready to trade one system for another. Finding themselves outside the mainstream, they begin to ask questions. Rather than immediately pick up a new dogma, many want to see its fruits first. As they fill their lungs with fresh air, they want a moment to think. They leave the Colosseum with the shrill echo of media-pundit combat pounding in their heads. They're hardly eager to replace one set of gladiators for another. Many want something altogether different: a human way of doing things, a way that respects them, that allows them to ask questions and test ideas. We must consider their needs, needs which were once our own as we too wandered the lonely wasteland cast between the elephant-donkey duo and the serene pelican.
If people want a megaphone in their face they may as well go back into the mall which at least soothes the dejected voter with the not-inconsiderable comfort of being miserable with the crowd. No, these new independents want to ask questions. Instead of being sold a brand, they want to participate in a process. They want to become makers, not just buyers. They want community politics, not just committee politics.
Community politics has its dangers, most especially that of becoming a jellyfish washed up by the sea. While third parties which actually achieve ballot status roam the wasteland shouting at anyone who will pause to listen, most don't make it even that far. They fizzle out in an endless stream of arguments where purity tests are constantly issued and personalities become far more important than ideas. Understandable: people expect something in return for taking a risk. If they're going to be ignored by the broader culture and pressured by friends, family, and colleagues to vote a certain way, then they are going to want a say in steering the ship. There's no joy in being ignored among even the misfits.
A viable third party must be open, nimble and principled. While offering answers, it must, must, must be willing to listen. It must permit questions as much as it offers solutions. It must make a commitment to the wanderer, to love them, welcome them, and hear them.
The American Solidarity Party possesses a virtue which could be the key all other third parties have lacked: central to its identity is its belief in the irreplaceable sacredness of every single human being. If you believe all people contain within them the Imago Dei, the image of God, then no person can be a means to an end. No person is only a vote. No person is just a path to power. No strategy is more important than a human being. We are not means to an end: we are ends in ourselves, and the end is greater than mere power.
Thus our party has written into itself a principle which is also a gift: the gift of being able to put down our megaphone and meet the person not just with words on our lips, but with ears to listen. We can encounter human beings as opposed to simply yelling at them. With the most firm and loving of all first principles as its foundation, the American Solidarity Party is better equipped than any party in US history to love their members rather than use them. We have built our party upon something greater than ourselves.
Everyday we struggle with the horror show our collective politics has become and we itch to pick up the megaphone; everyday, as we seek the good, we are tempted to allow discussion to rot into name-calling arguments. The path is narrow but straight, and the remedy for our weakness rests at the core of our party. We must listen. We must treat one another in good faith. We must not label. We must not issue purity tests. We must not harass, bully, or deliberately choose to assume someone acts from malice or hate. We must seek the truth together, recognizing we are all imperfect, acknowledging that we must love our neighbor and (dare I say) maybe even learn from them.
Consider the third party. Consider why so many people look around and sigh, their shoulders sag and their head droops, and they return with weary steps to the shopping mall. Consider the wreckage along the shore, the hundreds of good ideas and years of hard work shattered as the sea hurled them against the land and broke them with the weight of their own personalities, dogmas, and purity tests.
Then there is the pelican. Legend testifies the mother will pierce its own breast in order to feed its young. Rather than squawking like gulls or hovering like a vulture, it observes in silence what is lacking. Then she looks to herself for the change its young cry for in hunger. The pelican exemplifies the "revolution of the heart," seeking the common good before its own. Her sacrifice brings strength and health; its beauty inspires our devotion to community over individual desire, to love over power. We lift our gaze in awe and joy, and are thus transformed.
Consider the pelican.
by Kyle Herrington
"Solidarity" and "subsidiarity" are two ideas which make our political party, the American Solidarity Party, a unique voice in American politics. Yet, we do an injustice to these concepts when we 1) distort their meaning beyond recognition, often through a private definition (chiefly injuring those who we are in dialogue with because we destroy the should-be-shared foundation of political discussion); and 2) treat them as unattainable ideals but abandon them when it comes to “practical matters”.
These are concepts we should champion together as values that can and should order a good, healthy society. Seeing as our party’s name includes solidarity, I think it unsurprising that many agree on a basic understanding of solidarity. Subsidiarity, though, is a different story. Ask 10 people on the Registered Members page and you will get 11 different definitions. This is a travesty because these values should be shared amongst all ASP members, and inappropriate uses damage our political unity. Therefore, seeing this damage, I hope to use this post to start a discussion about where subsidiarity comes from, some key insights into what subsidiarity is not, and then share an example of subsidiarity that is working right now to better people’s lives.
Subsidiarity is a key component of Catholic Social Teaching. Many trace the first formulation of subsidiarity to Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno. As the name indicates, the document was released 40 years after Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. Pope Pius sought to celebrate the achievements of Rerum novarum and to clarify its teaching for the world forty years removed from it. In Quadragesimo anno, Pope Pius XI offers this observation which many see as a defense of subsidiarity:
Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them. (Quadragesimo anno, 79.)
This section provides the foundation for the development of and articulation of a proper understanding of subsidiarity as part of Catholic Social Teaching.
From this definition and others found throughout social thought, some have tried to reduce to subsidiarity to two ideas: “local is always best” and “efficiency”. Both of these fail to provide a full articulation of subsidiarity and do damage to the theological anthropology that Pope Pius XI built in to his encyclical.
While “local is always best” highlights the importance resonance between local governance and subsidiarity, it fails to place subsidiarity into the wider concept of the common good. Subsidiarity and solidarity both serve the common good. However, I do not think it would take long for you to think of a time where a local government has made a mess of a situation either through incompetence or corruption. When used dogmatically, “local is always best” usually fails to articulate a vision of the common good (which unfortunately is a common problem of most political discussions). Formulating this vision is difficult and requires discernment, but without it, subsidiarity and solidarity make no sense and are just concepts deployed to gain power.
Many who see the peril of a “local is always best” approach often then misunderstand the concept of subsidiarity to be saying something about efficiency. It makes sense that a small community might be more efficient at producing a certain outcome. This reduction to efficiency voids subsidiarity of real meaning. In Quadragesimo anno, Pope Pius XI writes about unions, laborers, managers, employees, wages, Socialism, liberalism, etc. It is not a clean and efficient picture of society. Additionally, efficiency is a foreign value to Catholic social teaching; more often it is a value of utilitarian positions. As with the other failed reduction, if subsidiarity is understood to be a simple descriptor, simply a practical method, it is just a veiled attempt to dominate our fellow human being.
The anthropology that Pope Pius and Catholic Social Teaching rests on is articulated beautifully by Dorothy Day:
The final word is love… To love we must know each other … and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship. We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. (The Long Loneliness)
Each man and woman is a creature created in the image of the Almighty God, who has poured Himself out for us in the mission of His Son and Holy Spirit. Through sin, we have abandoned God and in turn abandoned our neighbor. Yet, because we are still vestiges of God’s image, we recognize this loneliness as evil and desire instead community. This community is chiefly achieved through the common table of the Eucharist, but it is also found and strengthened through our community life together. In this way, neighborly love and community becomes a sacramental, a sign that points to God’s love for His Creation and desire for it to be united with Him. As St. Augustine might say, we use our opportunity to be charitable neighbors to express our love for God.
Therefore, our communal life and the attainment of justice are NOT simply another’s responsibility, but chiefly OUR responsibility. What is so gravely evil of “assign[ing] to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do,” is that it robs us of the ability to be neighbors. Instead, it treats humans as sole individuals, with no connection to the community around them. It then might make sense to have one organizing body dole out all the supplies we need for life like many utopian films and movies depict (I am thinking of a Black Mirror episode called “Fifteen Million Merits”). However, we know that usually ends horribly and it fails to appreciate the socially-oriented nature of the human person. Our current politics is obsessed with a “local is always best” that reduces everyone to a liberated individual against the oppressive world or an “efficient” means of making everyone supposedly happy and taken care of. However, both these options fail because they don’t really correspond to human nature. They are imposed ideas, imposed from Enlightenment philosophy and its counterpart in capitalist logic. We as a party are called to resist both these reductions and proudly articulate our vision of the human person and how we believe humans live and thrive. This vision rests on subsidiarity and solidarity and we owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to get these concepts right.
I hope to end on a more positive note. There are hints of the desire for subsidiarity and solidarity within our country. Unfortunately, they do not often show themselves until disaster strikes. Case in point: the recent and on-going hurricanes. This USA Today story describes the unique network of aid that is currently being dispatched to areas affected by Harvey and Irma. This network is made up by FEMA and charitable religious organizations working to provide the common good for the people affected by these natural disasters. These institutions do not subsume each other, nor should they. They are modeling a helpful image of how subsidiarity can flourish.
These are local organizations and teams partnering with national organizations to help their neighbors, to show love and bring community to those who have lost so much. Subsidiarity and solidarity are not hammers to bludgeon people with or concepts to use in order to dominate. Instead, they are more like the feet of a trapeze artist, the community being the rest of the body. Social life is precarious and because we are mutable creatures, life is constantly changing. However, guided by our two sturdy legs, communities that rely on subsidiarity and solidarity will safely pass on the precarious tight rope of social life. Only in this way can communities provide for the ultimate end of social life, the common good of all people.
These remarks were given be John Whitehead at the Pro-life March to Abolish Nuclear weapons in DC on September 9. John is President of the Consistent Life Network.
The theme of this rally and march, opposition to nuclear weapons from a pro-life perspective, has been at the heart of the Consistent Life Network from the very beginning. We were originally an organization called Pro-Lifers for Survival, which combined opposition to abortion with opposition to nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
One of the co-founders of Pro-Lifers for Survival was Julianne Wiley. I want to share some stories from Mrs. Wiley about her opposition to abortion and nuclear weapons and how these positions were connected.
Wiley began as an anti-nuclear activist, giving talks to small groups of people in their homes about the dangers from nuclear power and nuclear weapons. As she recalled, “I made a point of talking about how nuclear radiation would affect particularly the next generation [that is, children in the womb]. A woman…asked me, ‘If it’s wrong to injure these kids with iodine-131 accidentally, why isn’t it wrong to kill them deliberately with curettes?’ She was confronting me on abortion and I didn’t have an answer. She was direct and persistent enough that it stayed in my conscience a long time and really challenged me to take all direct assaults on the innocent seriously.”
That experience of someone drawing a connection between the dangers of nuclear weapons and abortion helped make Wiley to extend her opposition to nuclear weapons to opposition to abortion. The process also works the other way, however. Years after that fateful conversation, Wiley had another conversation with a man named Brent Bozell.
Bozell was a crucial figure in the history of American conservatism. He was the brother-in-law of William F. Buckley and an editor of National Review. Bozell was a speechwriter for Joe McCarthy and ghostwrote The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater. He was fiercely opposed to abortion. Yet he also, in the later stages of his life, came to embrace opposition to nuclear weapons.
Wiley remembers “He came to see me one snowy night in the early 1980s. He drove through a snowstorm from Washington, D.C., to Erie, Pennsylvania, nonstop because he wanted to talk to me about nuclear arms. He thought nuclear arms were an abomination…[N]ot just the theory of nuclear deterrence but even the mere possession of nuclear weapons, he thought was a mortal sin. And this is a guy who took very seriously the concept of mortal sin…He sat and talked to me for an hour…on how frustrated he felt that people didn’t take the fear of God seriously. And if you threaten, if you possess these diabolical things you could compare it to the possession of hardcore pornography and other things that simply as property don’t deserve to exist.” As Wiley noted, these types of property that don’t have a right to exist include “nuclear bombs, or suction machines.”
So there you have it. Left and right uniting in opposition to abortion and nuclear weapons—uniting to be fully pro-life. Julianne Wiley summed it up nicely when she said “[T]o me nuclear weapons and abortion were perfect bookends, symmetrical images of each other. They both involved a frank commitment to targeting innocent targets, and they both depended on the calculated willingness to destroy them deliberately…The two issues struck me as being so absolute they set up a kind of a north and south pole—a whole magnetic force that drew in a lot of other issues because of the clarity of those two.”
Those words remain true today. This is why the Consistent Life Network is here, this why we are all here, to be fully pro-life and to call for an end to nuclear weapons. Thank you.
[Quotations from “Activists Reminisce: An Oral History of Prolifers for Survival,” in Consistently Opposing Killing: From Abortion to Assisted Suicide, the Death Penalty, and War, edited by Rachel M. MacNair & Stephen Zunes (iUniverse, 2011)]
by Tara Ann Thieke
A fair measure of a person may be taken by how they treat those outside their milieu. Respect does not require agreement, but it certainly requires compassion and consideration.
So what do we say about those Pennsylvania House members who treat the working and middle classes as pawns to be manipulated at will? Republican lawmakers in the PA House have suggested budget cuts for Port Authority, the Pittsburgh/Allegheny County transit system, reducing weekend and evening service that tens of thousands of people depend upon every single day.
It's not enough to shout this proposal down. It must be made clear to politicians and lawmakers that millions of people are not a tool to use in negotiations. There are plenty of problems with the infrastructure development of the past century, but most of those problems are the result of self-interested, short-sighted developers and politicians who worked arm-in-arm to garner profit at the cost of healthy communities.
There are reasons why Pennsylvania has budget problems. They are the second-largest gas producers in the United States, and yet they are the only state without a tax on natural gas. The state serves as a virtual colony for the oil and gas industry, and the rationalization provided for not taxing our non-renewable resource is jobs. But when the gas is gone, then so will be the jobs. It won't matter to the crony class who profit from these lax regulations, and who then use more vulnerable populations in order to make up for their own malfeasance.
Our lawmakers should know what it is like to be fully dependent upon public transit, to work at a job that does not pay enough to allow for a car, to live in a community from which every job has been outsourced, and to thus have to commute hours to work.
While this particular budget proposal affects Pennsylvania, the failure of lawmakers to look out for millions of people is happening across the nation. The tech boom has priced out lower-income workers in the Bay Area. But tech bros still need their coffee and garbage taken out. So retail workers, housekeepers, janitors: all the people who do these absolutely necessary jobs receive wages that price them out of the cities and exile them to far suburbs or isolated housing projects. Then they are required to spend extra time commuting, dependent upon a public transportation system which is ever-more frequently used as a weapon in budget debates. Prices go up and quality of service goes down. Praise goes to companies like Uber, who offer alternatives to a middle-class that can still afford them. There is no creative energy or will left to build communities that truly benefit everyone.
So it is that the working class loses access to the city goods treated in such exalted tones by the creative class (who often prize themselves for the "authenticity" they co-opt when they drive up housing prices), then they lose precious time with their families and communities, and then they are treated as objects, as "disposable" people.
Do these lawmakers know what it is like to wake up in the morning for a two-hour commute by bus? Do they know what happens when a parent has built a fragile routine around daycares and school hours, and then suddenly the ability to keep their head above water is imperiled because everyone knows the politicians only listen to one constituency: the donor class. The poor, the college students, the vulnerable elderly: they don't offer any perks to greased hands.
People can't just "move closer" to their places of employment. It wasn't the working class which outsourced jobs, destroyed streetcar lines, or cut off once-connected neighborhoods via highways. To paraphrase St. Thomas More, first we make the poor, and then we punish them for their poverty.
It is not enough to reject this proposal and protect Port Authority. It is not enough to even stop treating those who depend upon public transport as means to an end. We must call for a renewed commitment to public transportation, a reexamination of our local economies, and a greater understanding that the community good is far more important than the wealth of our politicians and lobbyists.
The following speech was delivered by DDC Chair Tara Thieke at the Rehumanize International's anti-nuclear rally in Washington D.C. on September 9, 2017.
It's a beautiful day for a march, isn't it? We can all appreciate how lovely it is to be in the nation's capital and not be oppressed by the humidity. And as we acknowledge our good fortune, we know there are other people suffering hurricanes, devastation, and immense suffering.
Yet life goes on here. When the skies are clear we can fool ourselves into believing the gathering storm will always make landfall somewhere else. We can look at our children and think how lucky we are to be here, now, safe. We are all too willing to take our good fortune and our blessings for granted, and thus overlook both the violent social structure they often rest upon, and our failure to take responsibility for those abuses.
Over the past few decades our society has become complacent, taking the work of the first anti-nuclear activists for granted. We've assumed a crisis averted one day means safety forever. President Eisenhower and General MacArthur went from privately arguing against the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to considering the use of those weapons in Korea. Today we see a resurgence in talk regarding the use of these weapons in that same part of the world. Violence made optional becomes violence normalized. Violence ignored, for however long, doesn't go away. It just waits.
Normalization leads to apathy. We've grown used to nuclear weapons being a back burner issue, and so we've ceded our responsibility to care for and protect our neighbors, our children, and future generations. The truth is we live under the the sword of Damocles, our destruction hanging over us by the thread of what remains of our collective sanity.
Why must generations of children be told their safety can wait? Why do we put our own comfort first, neglecting our inheritance and our responsibility? Why do we put off the opportunity to be peace-makers? How can we possibly excuse ourselves from the task of removing the greatest threat on Earth, weapons which threaten the born, the unborn, the living, the future? There is no excuse. We have only our rationalizations, our comfort and our apathy. Those are poor reasons to reject the chance to love our children more completely.
If we love our neighbor, if we love our children, we will move with all due speed and diligence to hold accountable those reckless and violent enough to risk the world so they can play with fire. We have inherited a great legacy of those who risked their reputations and comfort to protect our shared world. But still the weapons exist.
It is our task, as a movement which truly understands that the innocent are never means to an end, that no person is an inconvenience or should be treated as a pawn, to bring together the big and small. We know the most vulnerable, poorest, weakest person is as valuable as the strongest and wealthiest. We know our children's peace is only as healthy as the peace of our neighbors, and so no child can be said to live in a peaceful world so long as these weapons loom between us.
As Dorothy Day said, "No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do." So let's do it, and let's make it work, for the sake of our children, our neighbors, and the world.
by Dr. Stephen Beall, former Chair of the ASP
James Baldwin once said, ‘If you know whence you came, there is nowhere you can’t go.’ The American Solidarity Party wants to go places: to city halls, to state capitols, and eventually to Congress and the White House. But as Baldwin pointed out, where we are going is linked to where we have been, because this is the key to our identity. How did the ASP become what it is today?
My own involvement in Solidarism can be traced to 2008. While my friends were caught up in ‘hope’ for a new political culture, I found a depressing sameness in all the major candidates. Over the next few years I read a bit and kept my eyes open. I was especially attracted to the idea of a faith-based, populist movement like the Christian Democratic parties of post-war Europe. On the eve of the 2012 election, I learned that a tiny, internet-based group called the Christian Democratic Party, USA, had endorsed Joe Schriner for President. I cast my first write-in vote that year.
We soon discovered, however, that there was no template for Christian Democrats in the USA. The European CD parties had wandered far from the ideals of their post-war leaders, Alicide de Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer. They had exchanged the Social Market of autonomous communities for a transnational regime of debt and austerity. We, for our part, insisted on the principle of subsidiarity. In an interview in Christian Democracy, Kirk Morrison (ASP Chairman from 2012 to 2015) put it this way: ‘I think most folks want government to be as close to home as possible. No matter what someone's political stripes are, when someone talks about "Washington" the sense is that government decisions and actions are bureaucratic, complicated, wasteful, distant, and decided by folks unfamiliar from the conditions and lacking understanding. The goal should be to empower (and fund!) government adequately at lower levels, so that they can be the most responsive.’ Subsidiarity was the first piece of our ideological puzzle.
We also came to recognize that the United States has its own tradition of Christian social reform, running through William Jennings Bryan and Martin Luther King. The party’s name after 2012, the American Solidarity Party, more clearly expresses its relationship to its European and American antecedents. It recalls the Polish Solidarity movement, which was inspired by St. John Paul’s call for ‘a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good’. The name also resonates with the long struggle for workers’ and minority rights in our own country. Echoing the motto of the Knights of Labor, Dr. King wrote from the Birmingham Jail: ‘We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ Solidarity was the second piece.
We also had to decide precisely what kind of political community we intended to be. As a member, and eventually Chair, of the National Committee, I was involved in debates about whether the ASP should develop as a think tank or pressure group, or become a caucus in one of the larger parties. Even in 2012, however, Kirk Morrison foresaw the danger of ‘selling out’ for short-term success and pretended influence. The fate of the Tea Party and Democrats For Life of America was very much on our minds. We adopted the long-term strategy of organizing as a party and running our own candidates, in order to present voters with ‘a real, viable alternative by voting (their) conscience.’ Of course, this strategy required faith in the democratic process itself. We did not call ourselves Christian Democrats for nothing.
We also learned that democracy begins at home. We had many disagreements in those days, but we argued as equals. No one pulled rank on other members or claimed a monopoly on political wisdom and experience. A registered member could post directly in the FB group (there was only one), and in the weeks before our first online convention, any participant could propose amendments to the platform. Our first national candidates, Mike Maturen and Juan Munoz, were not professional politicians. So much the better. We wanted to create a political community, not a political class. That was the final piece.
During the campaign, Mike Maturen was often teased for moonlighting as a professional magician, but we soon appreciated his skill as a salesman. In an election season characterized by fear and loathing of ‘the other side’, a small third party was a hard sell. Nevertheless, Mike and Juan began to attract attention. It is interesting to look back at the media coverage of their campaign. In The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Pearce drew attention to the ASP and its ‘exciting platform, which bears all the hallmarks of the common sense solutions offered by Catholic social teaching, subsidiarity, distributism, and localism, all of which are so sorely needed in our beleaguered society and economy.’ John Conley wrote in America: ‘The platform is a political Rembrandt.... Like the venerable formulations of Adenauer and de Gasperi, the Solidarist ideology leans leftward on economic issues, rightward on social issues, and firmly internationalist in questions of war and peace.’
Some observers regarded the Maturen campaign as the beginning of a significant ideological project. Malloy Owen of The American Conservative wrote: ‘In the age of liberalism’s crisis, the future seems to belong to solidarity. The question is whether the solidarity of the future will look more like Trumpian ethno-nationalism or the ASP’s vision for an economic and cultural localism uncolored by parochial prejudice.’ Writing for First Things, David McPherson addressed the dilemma of conscience-voting: ‘...It is not merely a protest vote, because if we are to work fully toward the kind of politics we need, we must first break from the political status quo. The ASP should thus be understood as seeking primarily to build up a cultural movement, which ideally will come to have political influence.’
Clearly, what attracted all this attention was the ASP’s unabashed proclamation of a different set of values—solidarity, subsidiarity, community—in explicitly religious terms. ASP supporters could vote with pride and optimism, not merely to protest against the status quo, but to lay the groundwork for a new—one might say, revolutionary—politics of conscience.
So where do we stand now, one year into the Trump administration? Are we the same party that pulled in thousands of votes in November 2016? There will always be a temptation to measure our success as other politicians do: by the money in our coffers and the prestige of our donors. We may begin to think that we no longer have the luxury of idealism, or that ‘common sense and common ground’ means the safe middle ground, where a ready-made coalition is presumed to exist. Many parties in the past came to nothing because they lost their sense of purpose and direction. But there is reason to hope for a different future for the ASP, because we are not far removed from our origins as a plucky, grass-roots movement determined, in the words of Mike Maturen, ‘to change the face of American politics.' He added, ‘Our success will be a long and difficult process. But no time is more right than right now.’
by Zeb Baccelli
This is the second of a two-part essay on the economic value of traditional marriage. The first part was published on Tuesday, September 5 and may be read here.
PART TWO: Why “traditional marriage” rather than “marriage equality”?
It is no small irony that DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act) was overturned in the case of United States v. Windsor, a case in which one childless millionaire, Edith Windsor, won the right to inherit a multi-million dollar estate tax-free from Thea Spyer, her millionaire wife. Is this what is intended by “marriage equality” - that the wealthy will be better enabled to keep their wealth without contributing to the common good?
As civil marriage becomes open to more kinds of couples it is increasingly becoming a class divided institution. As a recent Atlantic article (1) notes:
"Today, though, just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree; in the 1970s, there was barely a difference."
Young working class people often feel they don’t have the means of putting on a proper celebration based on standards set by advertisers, reality TV, and celebrity culture. They believe they can’t live a proper married life if they lack a house or a decent paying job with good benefits. As the Atlantic article continues to say, “The disappearance of good jobs for people with less education has made it harder for them to start and sustain relationships.”
So what is marriage for, and who is it for? Is it just an excuse for rich people to throw a lavish party and, down the road, keep their wealth within their class? Is marriage just another commodity, available to anyone who wants it if they can afford it? When marriage is decoupled from the sacrifices of childbearing and rearing it will become a tool of economic segregation and class maintenance for the wealthy. When that is what marriage becomes, that is precisely when marriage will be a form of unjust discrimination.
To be sure, marriage as construed by the “marriage equality” supporters is still explicitly discriminatory. Consider a case from my own life. My dad’s three younger brothers have lived and worked together on their family dairy farm for over 50 years and all three remain bachelors without children. They have always enjoyed some of the rights that marriage equality advocates demanded: next of kin status, visitation rights, etc. But they will not be able to inherit each other’s share of their farm when one dies. They will not get each other’s social security benefits. And why should they? Each has had the opportunity to work his whole life and provide for himself, just like any other unencumbered man or woman. But surely their fraternal relationship is just as deep and committed and valuable as Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer’s relationship. On what grounds can we justify privileging some domestic arrangements, indeed subsidizing them, over and against others? The irony of “marriage equality” is that in the name of ending discrimination it turns marriage into a completely unjust form of discrimination.
As marriage becomes just a status symbol, a high price accessory one may add to one’s life when the time is right, so will children. Widespread acceptance and use of contraception has already created the expectation that children should be a planned choice, and only chosen when you’re economically ready for them. Children are no longer viewed as the entirely natural, near inevitable, outcome of romantic coupling. But when marriage is not reserved for the kinds of couples who do naturally produce children, there is no longer any reason to treat marriage as the wellspring of children or to embed it with benefits for that reason. Same-sex couples who want to raise a child must go to extraordinary measures to become parents, and so can be expected to choose the moment and prepare for it carefully. Procreative couples are going to face that same expectation more and more as the social view of marriage changes. Marriage is no longer an excuse for leaving the workforce because it is no longer the beginning of childbearing and rearing. There is no longer a reason or justification for extending spousal benefits meant to abate the economic consequences of procreative marriage. Both marriage and childbearing become a personal lifestyle choice that the individual should pay for.
We may allow “marriage” in a cultural sense to be construed diversely so people can use the honorific aspect of it to celebrate relationships they see as good. And certainly we should ease the process of establishing “next of kin” status so things like visitation rights are available to all regardless of marriage status. But we must reestablish and strengthen a legal institution that recognizes the unique nature of “traditional marriage” and provides it the support it needs in light of its procreative nature. Women in particular and families as a whole, if they resist the capitalist demand to put paid economic productivity ahead of family, suffer and sacrifice to bring the next generation of well-raised children to our society. That should be subsidized, not punished. Traditional marriage with its attendant benefits should be preserved for those families that naturally will bear and rear children in order to protect the family and nurture the next generation.
Tara Ann Thieke