Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rational Thought 101 (Logic Times)

A nice primer written last year showing how to utilize logic in the context of a key geopolitical issue of the time which is still relevant (read: the Iraq war).

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On Historical Revisionism Surrounding the New Deal, History Since the New Deal, the 1984 Election, Etc.
("Tales From the Mailbag" Part III of III)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE. To start from the beginning of this thread, please go HERE.


Unemployment was at record highs,

Only in 1982 was this the case and it was not record highs, only the highest it had been in 40 years. This had changed by 1983 when Reagan's economic policies had taken firm root and unemployment was again on the decline -falling from 10% in 1982 to 7.5% in 1983 and 6.5% in 1984 as the economy picked up steam.{1} In short, this is another outright falsehood by the writer of this tract. There are also a few factors worth considering when factors such as economic policies, economic growth, and unemployment/employment figures are considered -including the following ones:

---It takes about two years for any policies to affect a noticeable change in the economy.

---Recognizing this, it is clearly absurd that Reagan would be blamed for the recession of 1982 since his policies had been in actual effect less than four months up to that point.

---This is why the proper culprit of the 1982 recession is the policies of President Carter and the congresses of his administration.

---Similarly, the recession of 1992 was caused by President Bush's tax raises in 1990. Similarly, the recovery of 1993 and 1994 which is credited to Clinton is similarly absurd as he was not president long enough to do anything to effect a recovery. Instead, the bad effects of the tax increase of Bush had passed and things were returning to a normal factor. If not for the Republicans winning Congress in 1994 and forcing President Clinton to abandon some of his agenda, his policies of 1993 would have resulted in another recession -particularly if the National Health Care idea ever actually was implemented.

In other words, economic factors such as recessions and recoveries do not happen overnight but take a bit of time to be realized: something that soundbyte mentalities like the author of the tract we are reviewing are obviously either ignorant of or profoundly disingenuous (if they know about it but do not disclose it to their readers).

and many voters felt Reagan had swung the country too far to the right.

As (i) the mainstream media kept intoning this theme over and over and (ii) there was no significantly influential alternative media at the time to counter the nonsense, it should not surprise that (iii) many voters viewed things as the writer of the tract notes.

So the Democratic party ran an old-style liberal at the top of the ticket, Walter Mondale, who went on TV and said, "I will raise your taxes."

This attempted interpolation of history will be dealt with in a moment.

The Democrats lost by a landslide, and the party has never recovered from those five words. The notion that Democrats are "tax and spend" is a permanent part of our political landscape.

Again, as Reagan's approval rating was 54% in 1984 and he won the popular vote with 59% of the vote, this approach by Mondale cost him about 5% of the vote. So the idea that President Reagan was unpopular and that it was the ineptness of the Mondale campaign approach that lost the election in a landslide is an absurd and erroneous revisionist account of history. That is not to say that a better run campaign would not have had a closer race in the voting of course -this is obviously the case. But it would not have mattered who the Democrats put up that year, they would have been badly beaten because the economy was doing well and President Reagan's "are you better off now than you were four years ago???" approach to the election resonated with the lions share of the electorate who were better off in 1984 than they were in 1980 much as they were in 1988, etc.

So that's your answer.

Considering how virtually everything the tract writer noted was an outright falsehood confuted by the facts of the historical record, their answer to put it nicely should be seriously called into question and rejected as unviable.

We won't pay for things.

Depends on what the things being paid for are.

America will pay for Bush’s war against Muslims without blinking an eye,

Now we get to the crux of the issue: this person's anger at the war in Iraq. Anytime, someone refers to the war in Iraq as Bush's war, you can bet the farm that you are probably dealing with an overly emotional and hyper-illogical solipsistic sort who will be difficult (if not impossible) to reason with. Can you see someone referring to WWII as "Roosevelt's war"??? The fanatical enemies we are facing today are notably worse than the Nazis or the Communists were because they are not fighting for what they believe is a better economic policy, a better government structure, or certain whimsical things that they think should be areas of greater focus by society at large. No, to them it is a religious crusade and that is a distinction with a difference.

but we don't want to pay for better schools, better hospitals, publicly-funded disease research, roads and bridges, global warming prevention, earth-friendly transportation.

The usual laundry list of stuff that these sorts throw out is on display above. The fraud of global warming aside for the moment, notice that they do not ask if it is even permissible for the federal leviathan to fund these things!!! The first question when it comes to monetary outlays by the federal government should be "is this allowed???" and the burden of proof is on the one who would insist on federal intervention.

Of course most who make an attempted appeal to the constitution to justify various pet programs will mention what is known as the "general welfare" clause. The Founders generally speaking did not see this clause as a broad encompassing clause but a functionally restrictive one. Here are two of the Founders enunciating the more common viewpoint on this issue:

With respect to the two words 'general welfare', I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators. [James Madison: Recognized By Many As The Father of the Constitution and the Fourth President of the United States]

[O]ur tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only landmark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money. [Thomas Jefferson: Author of The Declaration of Independence and the Third President of the United States]

Of course the "detail of powers" (Madison) and reference to "those especially enumerated" (Jefferson) refers to what is outlined in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. We may deal with another view from the founders which is often appealed to (and erroneously applied) by those who advocate The New Deal or The Great Society style federal intervention at another time but first, some words from a great Democrat president of the nineteenth century:

In the discharge of my official duty I shall endeavor to be guided by a just and unstrained construction of the Constitution, a careful observance of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the states or to the people, and by a cautious appreciation of those functions which by the Constitution and laws have been especially assigned to the executive branch. [President Grover Cleveland]

And again:

I shall to the best of my ability and within my sphere of duty preserve the Constitution by loyally protecting every grant of Federal power it contains, by defending all its restraints when attacked by impatience and restlessness, and by enforcing its limitations and reservations in favor of the States and of the people. [President Grover Cleveland]

This is the approach that someone who truly takes the Constitution seriously and recognizes (at least implicitly) the proper role of law in a just society. Moving on...

We don't want to be what we once were: World Leaders in the public sector, the best in science, the best in manufacturing, the best in education.

This statement is another loaded one as it presumes that being [w]orld [l]eaders in the public sector is a good thing rather than something which is anything but good. As far as being the best in science goes, certainly whatever America's ranking is in science we nonetheless are the best at utilizing scientific know-how regardless of whomever comes up with it. As far as education goes, those who whine about education tend to be those who do whatever they can to undermine alternative educational options such as (to note one example) home schooling.

American voters don't want that anymore. What do we spend money on? Electronics, all built overseas, consumer gadgets of all types, all built overseas. None of that is investing in America.

The problem is with viewing investing in America as necessarily involving manufacturing jobs. This is an overly-simplistic approach to economics and what Alvin Toffler referred to twenty-five odd years ago as (paraphrasing him a bit) "the Second Wave mentality" when writing about the societal hypothesis of The Third Wave.{2} But to go into that would be to spill a lot of type. In brief, the kinds of jobs the tract writer talks about are being replaced by more technologically and informationally advanced kinds of jobs. That is not to say that the assembly jobs this person talks about are worthless of course, only that similar statements were made in years past about other employment fields which over time and with economic restructuring either were recast or became obsolete. And considering how quickly technology improves, it is advisable for anyone to not place many of their eggs in the kinds of jobs this person is decrying lest they build in their own obsolescene in the process.

And yet our thinking is so twisted, we believe the Republicans are the more patriotic party.

Well, those who prefer to be on the side of national security should be viewed as more patriotic than those who bend over backwards to accommodate islamofascist terrorist sorts. More could be noted but that is one significant area where the Democrats are at least perceived as being of questionable stability (at best).

But what could be more patriotic than building great schools, developing cures for diseases, and preserving America’s resources, all of which will help ALL of us.

That is a loaded statement because it presumes that those who do not want to see the government usurp authority where they lawfully and morally have none somehow do not favour the things being listed. This writer has no problems with good schools, developing cures for diseases, etc. but those are not properly speaking functions of the federal government. They are instead either state functions or for handling in the private sector.

And yet those priorities are considered "soft," "liberal," not patriotic, like fighting wars.

Again, this boils down to what the government is or is not empowered to do. Whatever the merits or demerits of a particular war, national defense is a function delegated to the federal government by the US Constitution. There are very few such functions that the federal government is supposed to be involved in but coordinating the US military is one of them.

And as long as Americans maintain that twisted idea of patriotism,

The true twisted idea of patriotism is the kind of plunder that the tract writer has been prattling about and the same sort of plunder that commonly is appealed to during election seasons. But that is not a proper and patriotic approach to these matters at all but instead is socialism masquerading as compassion. Before explaining why socialism is a serious evil for the umpteenth time in this weblog's history, consider first what a view which actually respects the Constitution as "The Supreme Law of the Land" (cf. Constitution of the United States Article VI, Paragraph 2) actually entails:

One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

"Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it.

We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I ever heard that the government was in arrears to him. [Excerpt from The Life of Davy Crockett (circa 1884) as posted on Rep. Ron Paul of Texas' Website]

The reader can peruse the above thread to read more of the reasoning behind this position but it is the truly patriotic one: that the federal government has no right whatsoever to give from the treasury for charity for for functions not properly enumerated. People can of course give of their own funds whatever they want but the idea that a lot of this stuff is even allowed under the provisions of the US Constitution is a noxious one because it shows a mentality infected with the socialist virus.

Claude Frederic Bastiat recognized in the 1850's that there were only three ways to settle the question of legal plunder{3} and they were either (i) the few plunder the many, (ii) everybody plunders everybody, or (iii) nobody plunders anybody. Only the last is (to use Bastiat's words) the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony, and logic (cf. The Law). But nobody means nobody and that includes the federal leviathan which has been plundering people for far too long now -and according to the writer of this tract should continue to do so.

Democrats will teeter on the edge of extinction.

If only...

Until we decide we love our country enough to make it work, to produce students that can read, cars that don’t pollute, cures that benefit all, until we get our heads out of our Ipods and computers and decide that we are willing to spend what it takes to make America a proud place again, then yes, Democrats will continue to dance around what they are afraid to say: "Quality costs money, people. Tax money. Not as much as destroying Iraq, but a proud nation costs money."

One who claims to love [their] country who would enslave its people under the mantra of "compassion" does not love their country at all regardless of what they say. The question is, do they take these positions out of ignorance or not. For socialism/marxism is a noxious beast that masquerades under many masks -many of which sound quite noble.

Are we ready to hear that fact this election season? We'll find out soon enough.

Indeed we shall. And hopefully what is written in this posting adequately confutes many of the factual errors of the writer of the tract examined and also highlights some of the glaring problems with the weltanschauung of those who view matters as the tract writer does. We have discussed these things many times in the past and undoubtedly will again in the future. But before the election, it seemed appropriate to delve into some of the core issues even if in passing and do our part to preserve the historical record from yet more airbrushing on the part of certain pundits, agenda provocateurs, and apologists for legal plunder and disguised but no less defacto forms of marxism.

[We need] a recovery that isn't like the several we've had since World War II, in which we are off on wrong economic policies that get us into trouble. And then we artificially stimulate the economy to get out of that particular trouble, but lay the foundation for another recession two or three years down the road. [President Ronald Reagan (circa January 1984)]

Notes:

{1} Five percent was the standard unemployment figure we used in our college economics classes when dealing with employment models and the like. But in actuality, the rate can be higher or lower depending on various factors. Or as Wikipedia notes in an article on the subject matter:

In economics, full employment has more than one meaning. To most lay-people, it means zero unemployment. The majority of economists believe the unemployment rate is greater than 0% when there is full employment. They correspond this idea to the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU).

20th century British economist William Beveridge stated that an unemployment rate of 3% was full employment. Other economists have provided estimates between 2% & 7%, depending on the country, time period, and the various economists' political biases. (conservatives tend to see full employment as corresponding to a higher unemployment-rate, than Social liberals and social democrats do.)

Some Economists estimate a "range" of possible unemployment rates. For example, in 1999, in the United States, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD,) gives an estimate of the "full-employment unemployment rate" of 4 to 6.4%. This is the estimated "structural" unemployment rate, (the unemployment when there is full employment), plus & minus, the standard error of the estimate. (Estimates for other countries are also available from the OECD.) [Wikipedia: Excerpt from the Article Full Employment]

As readers can see, by recent OECD standards, our 5% figure is in the middle of the range. But full employment has been assessed by some economists as high as 7% and (by that model) the US economy was at better than full employment by 1984. In other words, the 5% figure we use is generally viewed in economics as falling into the range of what constitutes "full employment" for those who do not know.

{2} The following are the references to third wave methodology from this weblog's archives:

Alvin Toffler's 1980 bestseller The Third Wave was another book I first started reading in college. (And reread late last year/earlier this year.) The value of this book was initially in pointing out a viable theory for the confusing last few decades of the twentieth century. But it also was valuable in pointing out the kinds of presuppositions that undergird the way different people can approach the same issues. It eventually made me more optimistic about the future...though when I went through my pessimistic conspiracy theorist phase this book was shelved for a few years.[...] It was one of the works that I returned to after passing through that phase -and upon doing that I chuckled in realizing just how "Second Wave" the conspiracy weltanschauung I had dabbled in really was (for reasons too numerous to go over here). It is probably best that I went through that period but if I had remembered what I read in The Third Wave, it may have saved me that sojourn in retrospect. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa June 14, 2005)]

[B]logging is part of this puzzle as well -a subsection if you will in the "evangelization" category in part and contributing to the "electronic village" that Alvin Toffler noted in his late 1970's book The Third Wave. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa December 2, 2003)]

{3} When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it -- without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud -- to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed.

I say that this act is exactly what the law is supposed to suppress, always and everywhere. When the law itself commits this act that it is supposed to suppress, I say that plunder is still committed, and I add that from the point of view of society and welfare, this aggression against rights is even worse. In this case of legal plunder, however, the person who receives the benefits is not responsible for the act of plundering. The responsibility for this legal plunder rests with the law, the legislator, and society itself. Therein lies the political danger. [Claude Frederic Bastiat: Excerpt from The Law (circa 1850) as excerpted from Rerum Novarum (circa November 13, 2002) ]

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On Historical Revisionism Surrounding the New Deal, History Since the New Deal, the 1984 Election, Etc.
("Tales From the Mailbag" Part II of III)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE.

Having touched on the subject of The New Deal and the fiction that it was "fully approved by America" -along with a small digression into legal plunder and common violations of the fundamental rights of man- it seems appropriate now to deal a bit more with the historical revisionism surrounding this period of history having given the reader a prism with which to view these matters which they may not have considered previously. But without further ado...

Back when President Roosevelt proposed Bill after Bill that put government squarely in the center of American life. Government was not a dirty word.

If this was true, then why did President Roosevelt and his associates in many respects misrepresent the views of the Founding Fathers to try and justify their actions??? If [g]overnment was not a dirty word then such actions would not have been deemed necessary. But as it was deemed necessary; obviously there were plenty of people who did not take the view of government that the tract asserts. And when one considers that Roosevelt toyed with the idea of expanding the justices on the Supreme Court in order to pack it with justices who saw things his way, this is another fact of history which does not bode well for the ideas that either the big government spending of The New Deal either had the full approval of America or that [g]overnment was not a dirty word. Moving on...

The Administration created jobs, created public works, and only the Ultra-Rich cried foul.

Again, this is not historically accurate. It is proven out in the election results which after the 1936 elections favoured the Republicans overall as was noted further up in this thread.

The rest of us put the "socialist" label to rest for the time being and accepted the knowledge the Government Saved Us.

That is why after the depression deepened in 1937 that The New Deal gang was strongly rebuked in the election of 1938 presumably??? (Look it up, this is not even debatable.) And as the above comment is mere wishful thinking and does not reflect what actually happened; no more needs to be said about it at this time.

The federal government created programs to make sure the old and the poor didn't die in the streets.

Of course the efficacy of the programs created is merely presumed by the author but they do not bother trying to substantiate it. This is what happens when people buy into a myth and there is a lot of mythology surrounding the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. An unsubstantiated assertion (such as the one made above) is easily challenged and we at Rerum Novarum are more than capable of not only challenging it but even arguing cogently against it; albeit, we do not have the time to go into that subject with the justice it deserves at the present time.{1}

We built highways, created federal Parks systems, built bridges and dams, schools, science academies, hospitals and enacted huge Public Works programs, fought a war that saved the world, all of which made America proud, all of which cost lots and lots of money.

This person makes it sound as if there were no federal parks systems, bridges, dams, schools, etc. prior to 1932: an absurd notion if ever there was one. There is also the issue of whether or not The New Deal prolonged the depression or not: and yes, this is a hypothesis that can be legitimately advanced and reasonably defended.

Then in the 60s, President Johnson implemented two expensive projects at once: The Great Society, which aimed to provide education, jobs and a safety net for everyone in this country. . . and the Vietnam War. The result was higher taxes. And then in the late 1960s, we began hearing tales of Welfare abuse, people living permanently on the public dole. We also witnessed the rise of that great American stereotype, the Government Worker, slow and slothful, dumb and inefficient. In our thinking, Big Government was no longer a good thing.

The difference here is not difficult to point out. Even if we grant the proposition that in certain extraordinary circumstances what was sought to do with The New Deal was both defensible and understandable; there is nonetheless a massive difference between a country in the midst of a depression and a country in a period of prosperity. The United States from 1945 until the mid 1970's was a country in the midst of economic prosperity.{2} This does not mean there was not an occasional recession but these were always short and were anomalies as opposed to the rule. For this reason, many who might make arguments in support of The New Deal{3} would not do so for President Johnson's Great Society.

Then the 70s gave us the Bussing issue, in which liberal judges in urban areas forced integration at public schools. Black kids were bussed to White schools, and vice versa. America was not impressed.

Why should they be??? Whatever one thinks of integration, forced integration is not constitutional and that is the bottom line really. Personal whims should never dictate public policy when they are at the expense of legitimate laws of the land. This is the very thing that law in a just society avoids doing and someone who does not understand the proper function of law needs to get that eduation as soon as they can. The best starting point is Claude Frederic Bastiat's magnum opus The Law which the present writer has referred to already and will likely refer to again before the inteaction with this revisionist drivel is concluded.

In seeking to address personal whims, there is a reason for the Initiative process at the state level and constitutional amendments at the federal level: to make it difficult to enshrine mere whims of the moment into the governing template of the nation. That is why people such as the writer of this tract do not like the constitutional or initiative process as it is set out and prefer to go the route of supporting activist judges or judges who are politicians: two classifications of which meet with your hosts' profound disdain to put it mildly.{4}

Then came California's watershed vote: Proposition 13, which capped property tax increases, and California’s entire public sector cried foul. Hospitals will go unfunded, we were warned. Schools and the Criminal Justice system will go starving. California citizens responded, "So what?" and the measure won by a landslide.

Once again, anyone can say something. History shows that any attempt at a legitimate reform of government excesses finds these kinds of apocalyptic assertions being made by people such as the writer of this tract: hyperemotional rants are common for those who have trouble exercising the thinking mechanism and/or who have a profound ignorance of basic economic factors and how they play out in reality. This is why these kinds of apocalyptic shriekers are almost always proven to be wrong and the Proposition 13 was not a deviation from that norm.

Also, the death penalty was abolished nationwide, a move that most Americans did not agree with, and liberal judges like California's Rose Bird loudly handed down pro-criminal verdicts that sealed the opinion that the Justice system was run by a bunch of ivory-tower bleeding-hearts. At this point, government became the enemy.

Judges of an activist or otherwise political mindset pissing off most American: Who would have thunk it???

Enter the Reagan Revolution of 1980. Federal agencies were slashed, the federal budget for domestic spending was gutted, and America said "It's about time."

None of this is accurate as there were no actual cuts in the budget during Reagan's presidency!!! That is why we had deficits and continue to have them. The federal budget was 250% larger in 2005 than it was in 1987 -and that is going off of the presidents proposed budgets.{5} Would this reader actually claim that most of that budget expansion was in any way constitutionally permissible??? Of course not, because they care more for their own whims than they do the law of the land. This is also going off of a budget at the end of Reagan's term of office and last year's figure. If we went off of earlier figures, the percentage of difference would be significantly higher still -probably around 400% rather than the 250% we note above.{6} To quote from a source contemporary to early 1984:

Would President Reagan book just five minutes of nationally televised air time tonight if his message to the people is that he intends to call it quits after one term? Obviously not. No actor worth his salt would consider playing so brief a farewell scene.

....If Mr. Reagan had intended to announce that he would retire, he would have been able to point to a term of substantial domestic accomplishments. True to his campaign promises, he has dramatically slowed the pace of government spending. From a 14 percent increase in his first year, the growth in federal outlays has been reduced to 7.4 percent estimated for this fiscal year. [St. Louis Post Dispatch (circa January 29, 1984)]

But by 1984, though, President Reagan was fairly unpopular.

This is not true at all either. President Reagan was not as popular of a president for the first couple of years of his term. Many who voted for him in 1980 and later grew to like him (such as my blue collar at-the-time Democrat father) were more pissed off at the ineptness of President Carter than anything. It also did not help that there was a recession in 1982 before the economic policies implemented by President Reagan in 1981 took effect. (They were only signed into effect in August of 1981 after all.) The 1982 recession was a short one but brutal. By 1983 it was past and the economy was evidently growing. That is when you will find President Reagan's popularity really growing to the measures that it attained after that point. Granted, there was a small hiccup with the whole Iran Contra event -a situation misunderstood and misrepresented by far more people than not{7}- but President Reagan finished his term with a popularity rating around 65%.

It is true that his popularity fell in the early years of his presidency, but it was not at all in decline in 1984. Instead, the rock bottom was in January of 1983 as a PBS article on the 1982 Recession -which contains no small number of unsubstantiated assertions of its own viz. the effects of the economic recovery of 1983{8}- noted in the following fashion:

As economic hardship hit American homes, Reagan's approval rating hit rock bottom. In January 1983, it was estimated at a dismal 35 percent. Having failed in his promise to deliver economic prosperity, Reagan's reelection in 1984 seemed unlikely...

While Reagan finally agreed to a moderate tax increase on businesses, he steadfastly refused to raise income taxes or cut defense spending, despite a growing negative sentiment toward the buildup. In January 1983, with his approval rating at an all-time low, the economy slowly began to right itself. Unemployment, as high as ten percent in 1982, had improved enough by 1984 for his popularity to be restored, and by the November presidential election, it was hard to believe that a second term was ever in doubt. [Excerpt from a PBS Series Ronald Reagan from the Section Titled The 1982 Recession]

By mid 1982, the popularity of the President was down around 45% and it was moving downward as 1982 moved on -hitting the low of a 35% rating in January of 1983 as noted above. But it was at that point that the economy was beginning a rebound and that was reflected in the president's job approval numbers -hitting 40% in March of 1983, 45% by October of 1983 and about 50% by November of that year. By December of 1983, Reagan's popularity was at 53%. By January of 1984, Reagan's popularity was at 54% and he won re-election that year with 59% of the vote.

In other words, this is another revisionist assertion that does not stand up to the facts. Of course, if 54% constitutes being fairly unpopular than We at Rerum Novarum are left wondering what would it take for someone to be "popular" in the minds of such a person as that writer.

To be Continued...

Notes:

{1} Unfortunately, we work for a living and do not have time either to do all the projects we would like to do.

{2} Much as the United States has been since 1983.

{3} This could be a defense of The New Deal either wholly or in part. The present writer happens to concur with the latter in a few spots including that certain commerce regulations put in place after 1929 have made a duplication of what happened in 1929 significantly remote. (That does not mean we cannot have a serious recession here and there but the market is stronger in a few integral areas now than it was in 1929.

{4} As far as I am personally concerned, there are three justices on the court who understand the Constitution. The other six are roughly divided in half with three who think the Constitution is a plaything for reshaping as they see fit, and three who are politicians...Hence the division of the court between those who preserve the Constitution, those who undermine the Constitution (the "court termites"), and those who sell out to whichever constituency has the most for them (the "court whores.") [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa June 24, 2003)]

{5} The actual budgets of the congress -and the legislative branch are the ones who actually have constitutional sanction for budgetary matters, not the executive branch- are almost always larger.

{6} That is the difference between 1 trillion and 2.5 trillion.

{7} [A]t the time the primary enemy was the Soviet Union and we were involved on a lot of fronts to try and prevent its exporting of communism to other nations. Its involvement in the region with the invasion of Afghanistan resulted in us supporting Afghan rebels to involve the USSR in their own version of Vietnam. At the same time Hussein took over Iraq in a coup and Iran was overrun by the Shiites and the Ayatollah Khomeini who took Americans hostage. Remember, Khomeini declared war on the west and on non-Shiite Muslims who were seen by him much the way many Orthodox Jews view Reform Jews.[...]

Khomeini's intention announced, remember that Hussein himself was (at least nominally) a Sunni Muslim. He had recently taken power in a nation where 40% of the population of Muslims was Shi-ite. He obviously felt at the time that it was a gamble worth taking to invade Iran before Khomeini's influence in the region resulted in him having fifth column Ayatollah supporters in his own country. He also felt that since Khomeini had American hostages and that America was one of the Ayatollah's targets[...], that if he invaded them he would receive our support much as we supported Afghan rebels against the Soviets. And this calculation on his part was right.

We viewed Iran's form of fanaticism to be worse than Hussein's form of dictatorship. Plus, we wanted to see the two beat each other up so that they were less likely to bother other nations. We funded Iraq in part because Iran was the stronger of the two and had three times the population from which to form a military.[...]

When the Soviet Union started also funding and supporting Iraq, we were in a quandry because this meant that Iraq would likely win the war and the Soviets would have had major influence in the area. There was also an uprising of rebels in Nicaragua who were fighting the communist Sandinistas and the communist-sympathizing Devilcrats in Congress (including the Speaker of the House) were cozying up to Noriega and company. The whole situation was both delicate and complicated.

President Reagan and his advisors saw a brilliant way to put down the Sandinistas without involving American lives and also to help keep the scales balanced in the Middle East conflict. It involved selling outdated munitions to Khomeini and funnelling the money to the "contras" in Nicaragua to buy weapons and supplies with which to fight the Sandinistas. Since we were supplying Iraq - and wanted to retain that option again if necessary - this had to be kept quiet.

The result of this policy was that Iran was able to fight Iraq to a standstill which depleted both nations militarily.[...] And by 1990 the contras due to our support had successfully gotten their way in Nicaragua with the first free elections down there where the Sandinistas were voted out of office. Verdict in both cases: a brilliant use of diplomacy by the Reagan Administration and at a loss of no American lives. [Excerpts from Rerum Novarum (circa March 15, 2003)]

{8} These common unsubstantiated liberal assertions -not at all different in substance from the unsubstantiated assertions we have confuted in this posting- are beyond the scope of this post to deal with at the present time.

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On Historical Revisionism Surrounding the New Deal, History Since the New Deal, the 1984 Election, Etc.
("Tales From the Mailbag" Part I of III)

We at Rerum Novarum received the exact same email from more than one emailer which means it is a kind of "talking points" bulletin of sorts for certain agenda provocateurs. For that reason, let us briefly consider it on its merits -the words of the email will be in darkgreen font.

Can the Democrats ever really matter again? Can they win? Can they do more than complain about the Republican agenda? Election season is in full swing, and the Dems apparently have a chance to take back the House and the Senate. All they have to do is. . . well, say something.

Say something other than, "We are against terrorists, too, but we want to be fair about it. We want a strong military too, but there are other priorities, so PLEASE don’t pick on me. We'll revive government programs without raising your taxes, and we know you don't believe us."

The question of course is whether or not the government has the authority to do a lot of what they have been doing for not a few decades now. This gets into the whole subject of what is a just use of law in society and what is not: a subject we have discussed many times before and intend to once again before the 2006 elections. But at the moment, back to the thread at hand.

How did this Democratic double-talk become the norm? How did the Democratic party end up forever on the defensive, merely echoing a watered-down version of Republican priorities? Didn't they once have a lock on power, and successfully labeled the Republicans as the party of the rich? Yes, they did. So what happened?

Let's go back to their heyday, when a discredited Herbert Hoover ceded power to an Administration that spent lots of government money with the full approval of America.

It is disingenuous to claim that what Roosevelt's administration did was with the full approval of America. While one initially could say this was the case as the Republicans were crushed in the 1932 election and lost ground in 1934 and 1936 also, the tide turned by 1937 when the depression worsened. From that point on, Roosevelt's party lost seats in the Congress in the elections of 1938 (81 seats gained in the House by Republicans, 6 in the Senate), 1940 (3 seats in the Senate gained by Republicans),{1} 1942 (45 seats gained in the House by Republicans, 9 in the Senate). In 1944 the Republicans surrendered 25 seats in the House and there was no Senate change{2} but in 1946, the House pickup was 55 seats and the Senate pickup was 12 giving the Republicans back control of the Senate for the first time since Hoover's presidency. None of this bodes well for the hypothesis advanced by the writer of this "talking points" tract that there was the full approval of America in the slightest.

What we had at the time was a depression and people did or supported things they would not otherwise do.{3} And while many laud The New Deal for its presumed "successes"{4}; at the same time, it is not often recognized that the labour and tax policies of The New Deal (whatever one wants to say of them) had Republican roots!!! The same argument can be made that much of The New Deal itself if viewed as a temporary bandaid of sorts was suffused with Republican principles. The problem is when such measures are used not only in extraordinary circumstances and another when they become ordinary ones as they have become. The root of the issue is what is called legal plunder and was described by the late great Claude Frederic Bastiat in the following way back in 1850:

Victims of Lawful Plunder

Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter -- by peaceful or revolutionary means -- into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.

Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power to make laws!

Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the many, a common practice where the right to participate in the making of law is limited to a few persons. But then, participation in the making of law becomes universal. And then, men seek to balance their conflicting interests by universal plunder. Instead of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these injustices general. As soon as the plundered classes gain political power, they establish a system of reprisals against other classes. They do not abolish legal plunder. (This objective would demand more enlightenment than they possess.) Instead, they emulate their evil predecessors by participating in this legal plunder, even though it is against their own interests.

It is as if it were necessary, before a reign of justice appears, for everyone to suffer a cruel retribution -- some for their evilness, and some for their lack of understanding.

The Results of Legal Plunder

It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.

What are the consequences of such a perversion? It would require volumes to describe them all. Thus we must content ourselves with pointing out the most striking.

In the first place, it erases from everyone's conscience the distinction between justice and injustice.

No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them. The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing.

There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are "just" because law makes them so. Thus, in order to make plunder appear just and sacred to many consciences, it is only necessary for the law to decree and sanction it...

Thus, if there exists a law which sanctions slavery or monopoly, oppression or robbery, in any form whatever, it must not even be mentioned. For how can it be mentioned without damaging the respect which it inspires? Still further, morality and political economy must be taught from the point of view of this law; from the supposition that it must be a just law merely because it is a law.

Another effect of this tragic perversion of the law is that it gives an exaggerated importance to political passions and conflicts, and to politics in general. [Claude Frederic Bastiat: Excerpt from The Law (circa 1850) as excerpted from Rerum Novarum (circa October 17, 2002) ]

In a nutshell, this is what happens when people propose government interventions into society beyond what is permissible either constitutionally or by virtue of what is just in general. The rest of this tract will talk about a lot of things which neither are just nor constitutional -we note that here in advance before moving back to the tract's contents itself.

To be Continued...

Notes:

{1} Though the Democrats did pick up five seats in the House in 1940.

{2} This pickup was because of the progress of the war and also because the Democrats pulled quite a snowjob on the American people by portraying Roosevelt as healthy and on the mend when he was actually at death's door prior to the 1944 election. (They did this because they knew that any other candidate they ran would have lost and they would have lost congressional seats in both houses: they deserve props for shrewd campaigning and recognizing what they needed to do to win if for nothing else.)

{3} People who are in dire straits will oftentimes do that.

{4} We have always thought there were some good things that the New Deal did which could be said to be conformable to the oft-misapplied general welfare clause of the US Constitution; however that is a subject to discuss at another time perhaps.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

"Empty Spaces" Dept.

Whaaat shaaall we uuuse...
To filllll...the emp-ty...
spa-ces...where...we used to taaaalk?
Howwww...shall I fillll...the fin-alll...spa-ces...
Howwww shall I.......com-pleeeete the wall?


Originally what was posted here was a single thread titled On Historical Revisionism Surrounding the New Deal, History Since the New Deal, the 1984 Election, Etc. but the length of the thread as well as the many elements treated within it gave your host reason for reconsideration viz. its presentation when some minor glitches were fixed in the text today.{1} It was decided to repost the entire thread into three parts on October 28, 2006 and replace the original thread with this space saver to direct people to the new threads; ergo this installment of the "Empty Spaces Dept." -the third in the history of this weblog according to the archives. The new thread can be read HERE. Having noted that, the purpose of this thread is satisfied so we conclude it now.

Note:

{1} Including writing a segue for a footnote that curiously cut off in the middle: an occasional casualty of the sort of revising and editing that we do with posts of greater length and/or with more than the average number of subjects contained within them.

[Posted on October 28, 2006]

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Points to Ponder:
(On the Source of All Liberties)

Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? [Thomas Jefferson]

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On Torture and General Norms Revisited:
(A Response to Dr. Scott Carson)

Those who have been following these threads are aware by now (at least to some extent) that the subject of torture has been discussed in various forums in recent weeks with probably as much heat as light in some circles. We for our part at Rerum Novarum set forth in three connected parts a proposed hypothesis on these matters for the consideration of various parties involved. As we prepared to post other threads on various subjects which are completed, it was made known to us that Dr. Scott Carson of An Examined Life responded to at least some of what we wrote. His full thread to be interacted with at this time can be read HERE and in this posting his words will be in dark green font with quoted sources italicized.

I. Shawn McElhinney, whose blog Rerum Novarum I rather like and read rather often, has taken a position regarding the torture question that strikes me as grounded in reasons that are, for him, uncharacteristic. In a series of posts he has made an argument to the effect that it is not, in fact, the teaching of the universal and Ordinary Magisterium that torture is per se wrong, in spite of what Veritatis Splendor may have to say on the topic. His argument, in outline, goes something like this:

The teaching of the Church in the Ordinary Magisterium is indefectible.

The teaching of the church in the supreme ordinary (or universal) magisterium is indefectible yes. As for whether or not the ordinary magisterium in all of its parameters is, that is a controverted issue and remains unresolved by the magisterium itself. For that reason, a proposed hypothesis such as that would have the burden of proof to ultimately sustain it as a viable theory if it can withstand the required scrutiny of course.

There is also the issue of universally promulgated disciplinary directives which within certain boundaries would be protected from error either in positive or divine law. The question is whether or not any of the previous papal or conciliar statements on these matters was of universal scope either explicitly or tacitly by logical extension. This is therefore not as easy to discern as many would want to make of it -something we are sure Dr. Carson would concur with us on.

Significant theologians, including John Paul II and, even more significantly, Benedict XVI when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger and, thus, an essential influence on the writing of Veritatis Splendor, have made it clear that certain teachings, when they impinge on matters involving prudential judgments about contingent matters of fact in the temporal realm, are not indefectible.

The present writer has not made this assertion either. It is true that Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical letter where this position appears to be made; however, when one considers the manifested intention of that encyclical (as we did in the second of our three part response) it makes such a reading difficult to sustain in a coherent way.

Historically, the Church has actually required the use of torture:

This is a fact of history whatever one wants to think of that.

The past sanctioning of torture by popes and councils -going so far as to command kings and princes under pain of excommunication with matters of heresy when these undermined the common good of society- means that torture itself cannot be "intrinsically evil" unless the doctrine of indefectibility is contradicted.

Hence, in order to preserve the doctrine of indefectability, we must conclude that the teaching of Veritatis Splendor is not indefectible with regards to the moral status of torture.

In order to preserve indefectibility, there has to be continuity of principles even if they undergo further refinement over time or in accordance with changing times and circumstances. Furthermore, magisterial documents are not always easy to understand and this needs to be accounted for at all times lest Catholics do with them what many Protestants do with the Bible. (In presuming it is perspicuous or otherwise can be understood correctly in all its parameters with little or no effort on their part.)

Hence, torture is not necessarily per se wrong,

It depends on how this term is defined. The first thing the present writer noted in his posts on torture is that those who take the position of Mark Shea are required to define their terms. To ascertain whether torture is or is not per se wrong depends on how the term is defined.

In fact, given what the Church has done historically, we must conclude that torture is actually morally required under certain circumstances.

Again, it depends on how the term is defined and what those circumstances are. Under ordinary circumstances, it would appear that torture however it is defined would not be permissible. One of the things this writer did was situate Gaudium et Spes in its historical context and point out factors that impacted its content that are generally overlooked by those who quote from it too freely. Certainly Veritatis Splendour is a more authoritative text but even then, one must be careful to exercise due care in seeking to interpret its manifested intention correctly.

Our precise wording was as follows:

The past sanctioning of torture by popes and councils -going so far as to command kings and princes under pain of excommunication with matters of heresy when these undermined the common good of society- means that torture itself cannot be "intrinsically evil" unless the doctrine of indefectibility is contradicted.

Every word of that statement needs to be carefully considered.

This argument is valid, but it is not sound.

We will examine Dr. Carson's proposed counter-hypothesis in a moment but he does make a distinction between valid and sound argumentation: one that is valid in itself though whether it applies to what this writer wrote will now be considered.

(For those who may not be familiar with these technical terms, an argument is said to be deductively valid when it is not possible for its conclusion to be false when all of its premises are true, and an argument is said to be deductively sound when it is both valid and all of its premises are in fact true.)

This is an accurate summation of the distinction indeed and we thank Scott for making it.

The difficulty lies not in the structure of the argument, but in its reliance on historical facts of dubious interpretation to carry its conclusion through.

In particular, we may note that if it is possible for Veritatis Splendor to be mistaken about the moral status of torture because of the possibility of an appeal to fallible prudential reasoning, then it is equally possible for earlier documents "requiring" the use of torture to be mistaken in their use of prudential judgments to argue for the moral licitness of torture in defense of the common good.

The problem with this line of argumentation is that it assumes that all statements in an encyclical or any magisterial text are of equal weight. It is not that simple which is why the appeal to Veritatis Splendour (VS) or Gaudium et Spes (GS) in and of themselves does not suffice. One of the reasons this writer dealt with the subject of general norms of interpretation viz. GS is because that document is often appealed to in a departure from previous understandings where there is no warrant for doing do by virtue of the manifested intentions of the synod (i.e. not to make any new extraordinary definitions{1}) or the manifested intention of the document itself. This is why we focused so much on the manifested intention of GS, the manifested intention of VS, and also the important CDF Instruction which explains how to go about in a critical examination of magisterial texts with proper fidelity to the magisterium of the Church.{2}

This renders the premise regarding the appeal to the alleged historical facts regarding earlier uses of torture either false or hopelessly ambiguous, and this vitiates the soundness of the argument.

There will always be vagueness when terms are not defined which is why we insisted on it from the outset in the posting. If not for the fact that to outline the historical record would have taken up a ton of time and effort which we do not have (unfortunately) and if not for the fact that it would have unduly lengthened what we sought to make as short and concise a post as possible{3}, we could sustain by adequate proofs that assertion every bit as much as we can any assertion we have made over the years.{4} So that point aside, the soundness of the argument is not affected as much as it is (perhaps) not as strong as it could be. Having noted that briefly{5}, we shall now consider the rest of Scott's arguments in this thread.

It is worth noting at this point that the premise claiming that earlier "popes and councils" actually "sanctioned" torture is in itself hopelessly vague, even independently of its use in this particular argument.

One of the problems with striving for economy of prose is that sometimes stuff has to be glossed over to some extent. We try to only do this with items which are not in the realm of the debatable{6} but that is not always possible unfortunately.

We are not told who these popes were, or which councils, or the circumstances under which they are being said to have "sanctioned" torture, or even what the alleged sanctions were other than threats of excommunication for "heresy". It ought to go without saying that this kind of premise is utterly useless if for no other reason than its manifestly controversial nature.

This is a fair criticism it seems.

Even putting aside the difficulty of this particular premise, however, it is perhaps even more important to note that the language of Veritatis Splendor is as unambiguous in its condemnation of torture as the interpretation of earlier history regarding the alleged "sanctioning" of torture is ambiguous. So there is one point on which Shawn is quite right: either there has been a mistaken prudential judgment made somewhere, or the indefectibility of the Ordinary Magisterium is on the line.

We did not think of it that way and appreciate Scott noting the parallel ambiguity. It may help the readers to consider that once again, we have taken a position on an issue and then discovered that Cardinal Avery Dulles has agreed with us{7} -a most pleasing pattern over the years to put it mildly.{8} In posting this excerpt from a recent email correspondence, we hope Scott will see a brilliant theologian enunciating with greater crispness what your humble servant has done a less-than-stellar job at perhaps. Without further ado:

Cardinal Dulles took the same position in principle on slavery and approached it in the same framework as we have the torture subject. Here are the relevant paragraphs (particular attention should be paid to the undelined parts):

Noonan has one further argument for doctrinal change. In 1993, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II took, from Vatican II's pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, a long list of social evils: "homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide . . . mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as sub-human living conditions, arbitrary imprisonments, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons." Where Vatican II had called these practices "shameful" (probra), John Paul II calls them "intrinsically evil." In the same encyclical the pope teaches that intrinsically evil acts are prohibited always and everywhere, without any exception.

Did John Paul II, by including slavery in his list of social evils, effect the revolution in Catholic moral theology that Noonan attributes to him? It seems to me that if he had wanted to assert his position as definitive he would have had to say more clearly how he was defining slavery. He would have had to make it clear that he was rejecting the nuanced views of the biblical writers and Catholic theologians for so many past centuries. If any form of slavery could be justified under any conditions, slavery as such would not be, in the technical sense, intrinsically evil.

According to the logic of Noonan's argument, whatever holds for slavery would have to be said for deportations, subhuman living conditions, and degrading conditions of work. But could not degrading or subhuman conditions be inevitable, for example, after some great natural disaster in which mere survival is an achievement? Individual deportations of undesirable aliens occur continually as a matter of national policy today; mass deportations could perhaps be necessary for the sake of peace and security. If pressed, I suspect, the pope would have admitted the need for some qualifications, but he could not have specified these without a rather long excursus that would have been distracting in the framework of his encyclical. So far as I am aware, he never repeated his assertion that slavery is intrinsically evil. Neither the Catechism of the Catholic Church nor the recent Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church , in their discussions of slavery, speaks so absolutely. [Cardinal Avery Dulles: From Development or Reversal? (circa 2005)]

The principles involved are precisely the same and likewise, without explaining how the term is being defined, the minimum requirements for a dogmatic definition are not met. [I. Shawn McElhinney: Excerpt from an Email Correspondence (circa October 23, 2006)]

We had clarified ourselves a bit earlier in another email which is cited at this point for the sake of not reinventing the wheel:

[Veritatis Splendour (VS)] was a summing up of the wide scope of moral theological questions. For that reason, it is clear that the intention of the pope was to recall the corpus of issues under that heading in a comprehensive fashion and to be in uniformity with the tradition as he claimed was his intention in VS 4 or 5. That means no new issues were to be settled and therefore we cannot presume that any new ones were. And as GS (which VS quoted) did not refer to torture as "intrinsically evil", we cannot presume that VS in appearing to say that was making a new declaration in light of the pope's manifested intentions earlier in the encyclical. And if one considers the Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian as I noted in my posts on torture, it is clear that to surmize that VS had a deficiency on the matter in question is not outside the bounds of possibility and asserting that it possibly does (if one is not too dogmatic about it) is acceptable according to general norms of interpretation. [I. Shawn McElhinney: Excerpt from an Email Correspondence (circa October 20, 2006)]

In other words, there are acceptable and unacceptable ways of going about this matter and seeking further clarification. And one important issue is that a term needs to be defined and in a variegated term such as torture (or slavery), condemnations of one form do not necessarily involve another form. As GS was not settling anything new, the condemnation of slavery could not be considered comprehensive but instead a reaffirmation of the forms of slavery already condemned: namely, chattel slavery of which there were at least seven or eight papal condemnations going back to the late fifteenth century. Likewise, if torture is condemned, lacking a definition of the term, one must conclude that only those forms which were traditionally condemned would be involved.{9} Anything more than that is to read into the text which one should strive to avoid doing at all costs.

Here it is essential to see that the judgment of Veritatis Splendor, that torture is per se immoral (or, "intrinsically evil", as Shawn puts it), is not a prudential judgment, but a judgment about matters of faith and morals, the very domain in which the Ordinary Magisterium is regarded by faithful Catholics as indefectible. The judgments of earlier "popes and councils", however, to the effect that the use of torture is the correct way to safeguard the common good, are clearly matters of prudential judgment, matters in which the Ordinary Magisterium is not regarded as indefectible.

It is not this simple for reasons we have already outlined. Furthermore, if torture is "intrinsically evil" than so is everything else in that paragraph and we doubt Scott would assert that. (Or does Scott really think that deportations --also mentioned in that paragraph of GS and reiterated in VS- are "intrinsically evil"???)

So what Shawn has shown, if anything, is that if we are to regard the Church's Ordinary Magisterium as indefectible, we must take Veritatis Splendor to reflect the infallible teaching on the moral status of torture, and we must regard the actions of earlier "popes and councils" who threatened folks with excommunication for not using torture as misguided attempts to safeguard the common good. This is not what he intended to show, however, which is why I regard the argument as "uncharacteristic"--I think he is usually a little more careful than this, and his arguments are often sound as well as valid.

We hope to have explained reasonably well in this followup why what was originally written by us on this subject was written with greater care than it may admittedly appear on first or second glance. However, as noted already, Scott did pinpoint what was because of time constraints admittedly the weakest part of our exposition but hopefully it was adequately explained why that part of the equation was not delved into with the usual degree of detail that we strive to do when discussing issues.

Hopefully two additional things are clear in what was covered in this followup posting to our original exposition on torture and general norms of interpretation and it is these factors (i) there are certain areas where Scott oversimplifies our position{10} and (ii) we are quite pleased with his approach to the discipline of the dialogue on this subject and hope to have further discussions with him on issues if he is so inclined.

Notes:

{1} This does not mean that infallibility in a formal sense was lacking completely from the decisions of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council of course. But because of the predominently pastoral intention of the synod -the distinction we have outlined many times before with viable hypothesis including in this thread from over three years ago- such things cannot be so casually presumed as many seem wont to do.

{2} A document we note which was probably written by Pope Benedict XVI in his capacity as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for the late Pope John Paul II in 1990. (Three years before Veritatis Splendour.) That text was not only issued by the CDF with the pope's full knowledge but Pope John Paul II went so far as to approve it in forma specifica which means that he made the conclusions and arguments of the text his own.

{3} Dr. Carson surely knows if he has read the blog posts to this humble weblog or past essays by the present writer that economy of prose is not one of our strong suits.

{4} Dr. Carson also presumably is aware that we as a rule document every assertion thoroughly. One reason for this is that it gives people ample reason to trust us in those cases where things cannot be so documented due either to time constraints or other factors.

{5} Certainly we must in the interest of disclosure concede this point to Scott.

{6} Meaning that the statements are not debatable even if how they are properly understood when scrutinizing the historical record is a matter of legitimate debate of course.

{7} Either on the precise issue in question or on the principles involved in properly understanding it.

{8} Normally Dulles and I are of a like mind on subjects -as I tend to discover after I have formed an opinion on a subject and then read his views on it. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa December 16, 2003)]

{9} Namely, the limits placed on torture by past papal decrees. Or to revisit what we quoted from The Catholic Encyclopedia via their article Inquisition:

The limit placed upon torture was citra membri diminutionem et mortis periculum -- i.e, it was not to cause the loss of life or limb or imperil life. [The Catholic Encyclopedia: Article Inquisition as excerpted from Rerum Novarum (circa October 13, 2006)]

It is also worth considering the circumstances and some of the intentions with GS which we noted in our posting from October 13, 2006. To consider those factors, it hopefully is clearer why the Council would have sought to appear to make a broader statement than they actually made. (Again, this was touched on in our three part posting on torture and general norms and will not be reiterated at this time.)

{10} We do not blame Dr. Carson for this as (i) the issues are quite nuanced ones and (ii) his civility of tone and charitable approach in disagreement with us compels us out of principle to give him all benefits of the doubt.

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