Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sobran on Resisting Jesus

His essay makes it clear that Jesus despised mankind, even (and especially) "people who adored him," in the New Testament at least as much as the Lord despised the "stiff-necked" Israelites in the Old (e.g., Ex 33:5). The only difference, one supposes, is that, unlike in the Torah, no murders were committed at God's hand in the Gospels.

In the end, however, Jesus proved that His love for us far exceeded His contempt.

Whether Corrupting the US Military Is Good?

Walter Block writes:

A federal judge today rejected President Trump’s order stopping the enlistment of transgendered people into the American military. Posit that this will make the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines less efficient. Is this something to be welcomed by the libertarian?

He answers yes, since the military is being used for evil purposes.

Now let Smith be a murderer and thief. At one point he becomes mentally ill and starts cutting his own body brutally. We might argue that this is all to the good, since Smith's illness reduces his efficiency as a criminal and may even make society better off on the whole.

And yet we would also naturally consider Smith's mental illness to be an evil in itself, a corruption of something good. He now falls short of perfection both by being morally wicked and mentally ill. Restoring him to normalcy would now require both curing him of his sickness and improving him morally which is harder than doing either of these alone.

It is true that the US military is being viciously abused. It is also true that it consumes -- and therefore misallocates -- an enormous amount of scarce resources, impoverishing society. But letting in transsexuals or putting women on the front lines to me seems like an extra depraved perversion. Block might argue that in this case, two wrongs will make a right. Society and individuals are at war with the state, and anything that weakens the latter strengthens the former. It's a defensible view, but we should be very careful in this "war" that in fighting the state we do not harm ourselves, as well. The corruption of the state military may infect society though bad ideas and ideologies, too, and spread to it.

In other words, the libertarian struggle against the state is less a literal boxing match than a battle of ideas. We should not support bad ideas which will weaken us intellectually even if they also weaken the state physically.

Buchanan Asks What “We” Should Fight for

Pat Buchanan in his typical fashion is advising the US against overextending itself. In so doing he does not distinguish between the state and the people, so he calls both "we."

That is a serious blunder. In particular, war is the health of the state. Even if "this generation of Americans is not going to risk war," the interests of the state in permanent warfare can easily prevail over the interests of Americans.

The state wants to dominate and destroy. I personally do not care about the South China Sea, but the US government probably does. Accordingly, it may want to conquer that sea in order to oppress and murder Chinese people more efficiently. The US state seeks power, and as Orwell noted correctly, power is manifested in inflicting suffering on one's fellow men. The more suffering is dished out, in this case on the Chinese, the "greater" the state becomes. Thus, my interests and the interests of the state are in opposition, which means it is senseless to agglomerate both of us into one undifferentiated "we."

Buchanan is an anti-free trader. If the US government were to invade China and destroy its economy, then free trade would be ipso facto annihilated. It may be "vital" for the US government to blow up China, so that American firms are protected from foreign competition. If Buchanan had been elected president, it might have occurred to him that people tend to evade government restrictions on international trade. Buchanan might then want to wipe China off the face of the earth in order to destroy free trade in a sort of "final solution" by destroying one of the traders. When there are traders, he might reason, there is a problem of free trade; when there are no traders, there is no problem. Of course, the American people would only lose from this monstrous crime, but Buchanan would benefit, since it would serve to aggrandize his political power over the ruins of the world.

It is useless to bury one's head in the sand by falsely and naively considering all people, "us," to have identical interests.

Again, Buchanan writes: "While [the South China Sea] is regarded as vital to China, it is not to us." And if it were "vital," it would be Ok to fight with China? A mugger, too, may consider his victim's money to be "vital" to him, but we don't write articles counseling caution to muggers. At best, Buchanan is an efficiency expert for the state.

And why does he call nation-states "she," when it is proper to call ships "she" but nations "it"?

Self-Deification of the Leftists

Poor Jeff Tucker. He is ministering to the left, preaching the gospel of Hayek to the insane.

He should harbor no illusions that his wards will ever grant him the dignity of having "good intentions." For the leftists, Tucker will always be an evil troglodyte out to impede "progress."

Thus, let Tucker proclaim: "I wish to increase human happiness." Great. Unfortunately, the leftists do not care about human happiness. They take their own arbitrary, usually vicious, and often ridiculous and contemptible value judgments and elevate them to the status of absolute good. Anyone who fails to agree with them regarding their pathetic opinions is by that very fact totally depraved and is to be repressed by any means necessary.

In this regard, Lew Rockwell writes perceptively:

... conservatives who accuse the left of moral relativism have it so wrong. Far from relativistic, the left is absolutist in its demands of conformity to strict moral codes.

For example, when it declares "transgender" persons to be the new oppressed class, everyone is expected to stand up and salute. Left-liberals do not argue that support for transgender people may be a good idea for some people but bad for others. That's what they'd say if they were moral relativists. But they're not, so they don't.

And it is not simply that dissent is not tolerated. Dissent cannot be acknowledged. What happens is not that the offender is debated until a satisfactory resolution is achieved. He is drummed out of polite society without further ado. There can be no opinion apart from what the left has decided.

These leftist values, far from being absolute, are in fact random noise. They are wild and often wicked passions, undisciplined by reason or systematic thought. They change every day. The leftists vomit these useless emotions upon anyone and everyone uncivilly. There is no realization that their values may be personal, relative, transient, and irrelevant in the scheme of things, or that the leftists are not infallible and could be greatly mistaken.

A leftist then is marked with an unshakable faith in his own "good intentions," moral righteousness, infallible judgment, and a holy right to coerce those who question his ill-thought-out primitive doctrines. He torments his fellow men "lovingly" and with a sense of purpose.

This self-deification is an old phenomenon. Mises describes it as follows:

What the naive mind calls reason is nothing but the absolutization of its own value judgments. The individual simply identifies the products of his own reasoning with the shaky notion of an absolute reason.

No socialist author ever gave a thought to the possibility that the abstract entity which he wants to vest with unlimited power -- whether it is called humanity, society, nation, state, or government -- could act in a way of which he himself disapproves.

A socialist advocates socialism because he is fully convinced that the supreme dictator of the socialist commonwealth will be reasonable from his -- the individual socialist's -- point of view, that he will aim at those ends of which he -- the individual socialist -- fully approves, and that he will try to attain these ends by choosing means which he -- the individual socialist -- would also choose.

Every socialist calls only that system a genuinely socialist system in which these conditions are completely fulfilled; all other brands claiming the name of socialism are counterfeit systems entirely different from true socialism. Every socialist is a disguised dictator. Woe to all dissenters! They have forfeited their right to live and must be "liquidated." (HA, 692-3)

In Mises' time, socialism was at least a big idea. There was a theory there, however false, a system. Today's leftists are content with advocating that allegedly "transgender" children be destroyed bodily with drugs and surgery. They have fallen so low as to produce only autistic screeching. As an intelligible ideology, leftism is done for.

I can comfort and strengthen Tucker in his mission only with this: "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mt 5:11-12)

Christ’s Power to Forgive and Judge

It is often argued that Jesus thought of Himself as divine because He claimed for Himself the power to forgive sins. Now of course, any man can forgive a sin by another against himself, but only God can forgive sins tout court, and Jesus did just that: "'But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins' -- he then said to the paralytic, 'Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.'" (Mt 9:6)

But a much less often stressed Biblical fact -- and with some reason, because it's scary -- is that Jesus also claimed for Himself the power to refuse to forgive and by that very fact, condemn to hell, e.g., "the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." (Mt 13:41-42)

Of course, the opposite of "to condemn" is not "to forgive" but "to glorify." Forgiveness is for us as wayfarers; glory or damnation is one's ultimate destiny. Thus, Jesus adds in the next sentence, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Mt 13:43)

Now today a Catholic priest can forgive a person's sins, as per "I will give you [Peter] the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt 16:19)

But no man whatever can condemn another to hell or, for that matter, bestow glory. The power to administer the final judgment then is even greater than the power to forgive. For one, the latter is at least partially communicable from God to human beings, while the former is the sole prerogative of God. And being forgiven is merely a means to glory; it is better not to sin in the first place than to be forgiven for sins.

If that's not an indication of Christ's divinity, I don't know what is.

If Christ Had Not Been Murdered, Would He Have Died of Old Age?

St. Thomas seems to suggest that He would have died in this manner, perhaps from a heart attack at the age of 95: "Christ's body was subject to the necessity of death and other like defects," not because He contracted these defects through the manner of His birth, "as if taking them upon Himself as due to sin," but because He assumed them voluntarily. The fundamental reason to think so is that "it was in order to satisfy for the sin of the human race that the Son of God, having taken flesh, came into the world. Now one satisfies for another's sin by taking on himself the punishment due to the sin of the other. But these bodily defects, to wit, death, hunger, thirst, and the like, are the punishment of sin, which was brought into the world by Adam... Hence it was useful for the end of Incarnation that He should assume these penalties in our flesh and in our stead..." (ST, III, 14)

But I reject the premise of this Pauline teaching that the Father punished the Son as some sort of hated scapegoat in order for the human race to evade divine justice. Without this disgraceful and absurd idea, does the argument still hold up?

There are two reasons to think that Christ would have died of old age. First, because of the easy syllogism:

(1) All men are mortal.
(2) Christ was a man.
Therefore,
(3) Christ was mortal.

If Jesus' body was naturally immortal and would not age beyond 30 years old or whatever, then His body had to have worked very differently from own own bodies. It would then be difficult to maintain that Christ took on human nature.

Second, because of the realistic consideration to the effect that "what good would it have done Him?" Jesus knew that He would die on the cross, unjustly destroyed by those He loved, and an ageless body would have been entirely useless to Him.

There are, however, two other possibilities. First, St. Thomas argues that Adam in his Garden in the state of original righteousness and pure uncorrupt nature was graced with natural immortality and the "fullness of health, i.e., vigor of incorruptibility." Upon his sin, this grace was withdrawn, and Adam, now expelled into the world, ended up growing old and dying as per the functioning of human nature as we now know it. Could it be that, say, at Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit similarly imparted immortality upon His body: "heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him"? (Mt 3:16)

Unfortunately, there is no Scriptural support whatsoever for this opinion.

Second, it may be that Jesus' bodily immortality resulted from the union of His human nature with His divine nature or Godhead; or from the eminence or even glory that accrued to His human soul. St. Thomas admits that this is possible but denies that it was actual: "the beatitude remained in the soul, and did not flow into the body; but the flesh suffered what belongs to a passible nature; thus Damascene says... that, 'it was by the consent of the Divine will that the flesh was allowed to suffer and do what belonged to it.'"

St. Thomas lists two more reasons "for the body assumed by the Son of God to be subject to human infirmities and defects" that do not depend on the dubious theory of "punishment":

1) In order to cause belief in Incarnation. For since human nature is known to men only as it is subject to these defects, if the Son of God had assumed human nature without these defects, He would not have seemed to be true man, nor to have true, but imaginary, flesh, as the Manicheans held.

2) In order to show us an example of patience by valiantly bearing up against human passibility and defects. Hence it is said... that He "endured such opposition from sinners against Himself, that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds."

On the whole, it seems somewhat more plausible that Jesus would indeed have died of old age, perhaps in the manner of the rather honorable Moses' death, in His pre-resurrection body, had He not been murdered by us in His prime.

Depressing Theology

In Chapter 2 of his Christian Philosophical Theology, Stephen T. Davis presents an astonishingly crude, primitive, even pathetic "cosmological" argument for the existence of "God." That this argument fails to prove anything is made clear in the next chapter, where Davis writes: "But even if we know or rationally believe that God exists, it is still an open question what God is like, that is, what God's attributes are. There are many sorts of Gods, gods, and divine beings in the various religions of the world. What is God like?" (37)

Replace the word God with the word "Croomp." Would Davis say that his argument proves Croomp's existence? Of course, he can't say that, because in Chapter 2 "Croomp" is a meaningless term, as is the proposition "Croomp exists."

Davis quotes St. Thomas on several occasions but fails utterly to grasp his method, which is to unite through natural theology the meaning and reference of term "God."

One needs to show, one argument after another, how something with a highly peculiar attribute X, such that X is not shared by creatures or universe as a whole either in quality or in eminence, exists, and conclude the proof with "and this everyone understands to be God" (or Croomp). Davis attempts no such feat, which is why his argument fails.

Whether God Can Infuse a False Faith?

The job of the Holy Spirit regarding faith seems to be to remove doubts regarding the articles of faith, as per St. Thomas' understanding that the intellect can "assent to something, not through being sufficiently moved to this assent by its proper object, but through an act of choice, whereby it turns voluntarily to one side rather than to the other: and if this be accompanied by doubt or fear of the opposite side, there will be opinion, while, if there be certainty and no fear of the other side, there will be faith." (ST, II-II, 1, 4) I mentioned the false religious beliefs of, say, Jews and Muslims, such as that Jesus is not God. Sometimes these beliefs are firmly and even fanatically held.

This bothered me somewhat, so I asked the Holy Spirit whether He ever acted to convince someone of a false belief, perhaps for reasons of overall "utilitarian" providence. He answered no, but I think it was presumptuous even to ask in light of 1 John 4:

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world. (1-3)

NABRE comments:

Deception is possible in spiritual phenomena and may be tested by its relation to Christian doctrine: those who fail to acknowledge Jesus Christ in the flesh are false prophets and belong to the antichrist.

Even though these false prophets are well received in the world, the Christian who belongs to God has a greater power in the truth.

So it seems rather that the Jews and Muslims, in regard precisely to their devotion to their corrupt religions, are victims of the influence of evil spirits. How unfortunate, especially because "the devil made me believe it" is hardly a valid excuse.

But how can a person honestly contemplating whether Christianity or Islam is true in order to choose between them be sure whether he is being prompted by the spirit of God or of the devil? Well, the passage continues: "You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) It may be that a genuinely honest inquiry, especially made through a pure heart, is guaranteed to lead one, at least eventually, to the truth.

Differences Between Laws and Duties

1. Duties are addressed to the citizen personally. Laws are addressed from the legislator (such as God or the human legislature or the chief executive) through judges to the police. It is the police and not the people who have the duty to obey laws and inflict punishments predictably.

This is simply because cops literally are employees of the executive branch and subject to, say, the authority of mayor who in his turn obeys the superior legislative and judicial branches. It's the cops' contractual obligation to follow their bosses' orders. But citizens do not work for the state and so are under no obligation to obey. In other words, the state is an enterprise organization, bound by a single purpose: the business of governing. The citizens form merely a civil association, bound only by a common law.

2. A duty is therefore a command, saying "you shall not steal." A law is an incentive, saying "if you steal, then you will be punished."

3. A duty suppresses wicked desires internally by its very meaning. A law elicits good behavior externally through fear of punishment, wherein the expected costs to the potential lawbreaker seem to outweigh the expected benefits.

Thus, knowing the true proposition "stealing is wrong" is equivalent to recognizing the duty not to steal. If you have no interest in stealing, then the duty is all but irrelevant. Otherwise, you are commanded to purify yourself by driving sinful desires out of your soul.

4. Law is descriptive. A natural law may say, "Smith promotes his welfare best when he treats Jones according to Jones' nature, specifically by libertarian ethics."

A positive law may say, "The common good is promoted when the local government enforces basic sanitation standards."

An administrative law may say, "One may lose his driver's license for unsafe driving, so that traffic moves most efficiently." (Since the government owns the roads.)

Duty is prescriptive. It commands action, such as to drive safely.

5. Laws aim, by altering behavior, to promote some good. Duties destroy goods, designating some desired goods evil. Duties do not command mere outward obedience; they demand inner regeneration, such as becoming a just person who is happy to abide by justice.

Both laws and duties then justify human relationships, except that laws harmonize external consequences of human actions, and duties justify humans internally in their hearts and minds, as to how they ought to feel and think about fellow men.

Thus, a law against murder aims simply to control and put a damper on violence; a duty not to murder aims to cultivate good will toward men.

6. Laws form a complex system. Each duty suffices by itself.

Whether Libertarianism = Decentralization?

Consider a global central government with no competition. There is no "Earth, love it or leave it," because there is no escape. Let it be run by a single reasonably prudent self-interested despot.

The despot will face a strong incentive to tax the world economy at the revenue-maximizing rate, so that he personally can live in unparalleled luxury. The Laffer curve shows that there is only one such point, call the tax rates corresponding to it, MLC-rate. Above that rate, productivity declines so much due to the disincentive effects of taxation, that higher tax rates bring in less and less revenue to the despot.

Let it be asked: can the tax rate be forced by libertarians below the MLC-rate?

Someone proposes that the royal despot be deposed and democratic government be instituted instead. Unfortunately, democracy will generate two opposing forces regarding taxation.

On the one hand, the taxpayers will have a representation in the government implying that they'll have a means to try to lower taxes.

On the other hand, democracy will entail greater competition for loot by the parasites who attach themselves to the legislators. The sustainably prudent predation by the single despot who, by abstaining from raising taxes above the MLC-rate, prevents overexploitation of the economy to everyone's detriment, will be replaced by multiple independent looters for whom the economy will be a common resource which will inevitably suffer from the tragedy of the commons. This influence will tend to push tax rates above the MLC-rate. The overall effect cannot be determined a priori.

Regarding taxes at least, libertarians cannot unequivocally favor democracy.

This understanding differs from Hoppe's ideas of the incentives to temporary presidents or legislators as opposed to a permanent royal dynasty which I think are mistaken, anyway.

As a result, the only real solution to taxation is indeed radical and massive decentralization. Without it, the best constitution of the government is futile; with it, and the comcominant competition between local governments, it is unnecessary.

Is Bionic Mosquito then right that "libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice"? Regarding taxes and their minimization (or elimination), I think so, yes. But there are many other issues beyond taxation. It's false that all libertarian goals can be accomplished and all ideals realized entirely through decentralization.

For example, fractional-reserve banking and credit expansion are possible to some extent without a central state.

The system may permit slavery and serfdom, whereas capitalism requires free and highly mobile labor.

Business regulation is unaffected, although of course a city with many restrictions will be less prosperous, and, just like cities with high taxes, will suffer emigration.

Wars between cities will be possible, and only a libertarian ideology can fully prevent them.

If a lot of people believe in prohibition, even a decentralized society may end up repressing consumers.

Cities may unwisely choose to impose trade barriers, and only grasp of economics can assure that this will not occur, except again that protectionism impoverishes, and localities that indulge in it will tend to internalize the costs of their mistakes.

Entrepreneurial freedoms to buy and sell capital goods and hire and fire labor can still be restricted within many cities as per the vicious ideologies of their inhabitants.

In short, decentralization fixes the taxation problem fully, and all other economic calamities partially. For fully enabled libertarian capitalism, the right ideology is indispensable.

Why the Old Testament Ultraviolence?

I mention a few examples of the over-the-top violence in the OT in previous posts: [1], [2].

What's the deal with all that? One explanation may be that the physical wars in the OT were signs of the spiritual warfare after Christ.

Another is that God was pursuing a very important end: preparing the world for the Incarnation of the Son. Great sacrifices had to be made in order for this momentous and highly beneficial to mankind event to succeed.

From the deontological perspective, God is the Author of life and death and has a "right" both to give life and to kill at His pleasure.

But the truth is probably even simpler. John the Baptist said, "And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones." (Mt 3:9) It follows that natural unregenerated humans are almost worthless. They are a dime a dozen. They are grass, and God can mow the lawn of His creation however He wills. What does it really in the final analysis matter if I die now at Moses' sword or 20 years from now from some hideous disease? Earthly life ends, and with it, as it appears to a faithless man, all subjectivity, experience, pleasure, understanding, and memory. If it ends a little sooner rather than later, so what?

But among this grass, there are a few flowers. God cares for them. He gives them living water; He prunes them; He increases their charity. There is a price God pays for this care; not, obviously, because He gets tired from the effort of gardening, but because He cannot grace everyone, and if He chooses Smith to be the flower, He by that very fact refrains from uplifting Jones. For mysterious reasons of divine providence, grace is fairly scarce.

These flowers "are worth more than many sparrows." (Lk 12:7)

Now if a person has been chosen thus, then rejecting the grace is a monstrous crime, because God has forsaken others for his sake. The costs have been borne, but no profit realized. Therefore the importance of cooperating with grace cannot be overemphasized.

“Bionic Mosquito” Confuses Theory with Strategy

He writes that "libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice. There is not a longer-lasting, more decentralized period of history in the west than the Middle Ages."

Well, no, libertarianism in theory is... libertarianism in theory. Even if he is fully correct in his main thesis that the medieval world was nicely decentralized, its political system failed precisely because it lacked the libertarian theory and ideology.

Even worse, the later centralization of power was justified precisely by anti-libertarian ideologies, such as empire-building, global socialism, or Keynesian economics.

On the other hand, I agree that libertarianism's greatest mistake has been the assumption that liberty and capitalism can be established and flourish in large states. Experience confirms that this is impossible. The federal government, for example, is irreformable.

I am amused that BM's favorite type of essay is a line-by-line "refutation." This, of course, is as amateurish as it is uncharitable. Taking each sentence out of its context makes no sense, and to imply that literally every sentence in an opponent's argument is "unbelievably false" is to demonstrate deep and vicious contempt for this opponent.

Many years ago, I, relishing my growing intellectual power, would do just that. My first paper in my first philosophy class in 2005 was exactly a line-by-line critique of some author. The professor mercifully did not grade the paper but still rejected it as utterly inappropriate. After a good talking-to from him, I learned my lesson.

Real Presence, 2

Another possibility, albeit one unsupported by any evidence, is that Christ's human body in heaven right now contains no matter but is subtle physical energy, as though fully a wave and not particles; or at least fully convertible to energy.

The energy of Christ's body is light of perfect purity, though on a lower level than the light of His will or intellect.

St. Thomas explains the "subtlety" of a glorified body as "the power to penetrate." (ST, Supplement, 83, 1)

As a result, perhaps the "transubstantiation" consists in God's imparting a measure of this energy or "vibration" (as some accounts of near-death experiences refer to it) to the bread, making it "deiform." However, that in no way destroys the bread but instead graces or even glorifies it, and both build on an intact nature.

Either way, the traditional understanding of transubstantiation cannot stand.

A Theory of Real Presence

I fully affirm that God the Son is present, as body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharistic host.

However, I find the doctrine of transubstantiation to be almost entirely meaningless. No appeal to faith or God's omnipotence can salvage it, because faith builds on reason; it cannot contradict it. To faith belong the things above reason not contrary to reason.

The astonishing, absurd, and incredible error of the Catholic theologians has been that in order to become the body of Christ, the bread must "convert" into meat. It is affirmed that that's just what it does, yet absolutely and 100% undetectably. No chemical analysis of the bread after it has been transubstantiated will reveal any meat-like properties. Watch the stomach digest the wafer with any manner of microscopes and modern devices; as far as the stomach is concerned, it is appropriating the plant matter of processed wheat, not animal matter of human flesh. And you can't deceive a brute innocent organ which does not care for dubious points of the Catholic doctrine. The body will receive the nutrients from the original bread, not from any sanctified meat.

What is "conversion"? If it's anything like the turning of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, then it constitutes simply the annihilation of the wife and creation ex nihilo of the pillar. Thus, similarly, the bread is destroyed, and a piece of meat is allegedly created by God via a miraculous act in its stead. This is defended by the claim that transubstantiation is a substantial conversion of something essentially bread into something essentially meat, but one where the accidents of the bread -- apparently in fact everything that makes bread what it is -- remain. "In every true conversion the following condition must be fulfilled: 'What was formerly A, is now B.'" But "what bread was" is not defined by its accidents. This idea would never have passed muster with St. Thomas, unless he felt he was under a (false) necessity to try to defend the indefensible.

The Catholic Encyclopedia goes on: "For we do not receive in the Sacred Host one part of Christ and in the Chalice the other, as though our reception of the totality depended upon our partaking of both forms; on the contrary, under the appearance of bread alone, as well as under the appearance of wine alone, we receive Christ whole and entire." How can that be if human flesh is greatly varied in biochemical structure and function in the different organs of the body? Do we consume Christ's liver or His muscles? Does the bread turn into a little homunculus perfectly mimicking the body of Christ that He possessed while incarnated 2,000 years ago? Let's not get ridiculous.

What then happens during the Eucharist? It is simply a most literal and actual re-incarnation of God in the matter of bread and wine. Christ's divinity incarnated in the human flesh 2,000 years ago. Today, during every mass, His divinity and human soul are reincarnated as bread again and again. Bread is in the full sense Christ's body, yet now we are under no obligation to suppose absurdly that it "converts" into meat. In the original incarnation, Christ had (and does now) two natures, divine and human; a single personality, woven out of these; and a single undivided pursuit of happiness. In the Eucharist, He has four natures: bread-ness, wine-ness, humanity, divinity; yet still 1 person. Jesus dies every time the bread is eaten and wine is drunk, but it doesn't hurt.

How is that possible? Easy! All things pre-exist in God. Any real thing, therefore, is as if God shrunk into some particular finitude. As a result, God could incarnate as a human, but He can also incarnate as literally anything else, including a cat or color TV. In particular, God can incarnate as bread and wine which become His body while "containing" His divinity. More generally, any higher thing can incarnate as a lower thing. Now an angel cannot really incarnate as a human being. He can "assume" a human body, but it will be a mere facade, since the angel will not exercise any functions of life in that body. The active life proper to man is entirely foreign to an angel. But a human soul can assuredly incarnate as a merely material object, say, a car engine, since such a thing will be fully below it. As such a thing, it will be blind, deaf, and unthinking, but it will be attached to the engine, anyway. That this is so is clear from the fact that a human embryo has a full-featured soul, but because of the temporary primitiveness of the body, the soul cannot do much. The embryo does not contemplate philosophy while in the womb.

Again, the body (including the brain) is a limitation on the faculties of the human soul. The brain itself as a physical object has no power to think on its own. If the soul can permeate an embryo and in so doing lose most of its powers, then what is so outrageous about the idea that the soul can permeate bread and lose all of them?

Thus, both Christ's divinity and soul are bundled within the host. The idea of real presence remains without the absurdity of an outrageous magical transformation.

Why would God uplift mere bread and wine so? I already answered this question: in order to serve as a most adequate sign that just as a profane matter can become sacred, so can a profane natural unregenerated human soul be perfected and glorified.

There are other benefits to this understanding. The CE presents 3 problems of speculative theology relevant to the Eucharist:

  1. the continued existence of the Eucharistic Species, or the outward appearances of bread and wine, without their natural underlying subject;
  2. the spatially uncircumscribed, spiritual mode of existence of Christ's Eucharistic Body;
  3. the simultaneous existence of Christ in heaven and in many places on earth.

Problem 1 is conveniently dissolved.

Problem 2 is put as follows: "The difficulty reaches its climax when we consider that there is no question here of the Soul or the Divinity of Christ, but of His Body, which, with its head, trunk, and members, has assumed a mode of existence spiritual and independent of space, a mode of existence, indeed, concerning which neither experience nor any system of philosophy can have the least inkling." But now that we see that each individual piece of bread used in every celebration of the Eucharist is a new body of Christ and a temporal and very temporary one at that, this problem, too, goes away.

Problem 3 "has to do with the multilocation of Christ in heaven and upon thousands of altars throughout the world." This, too, is now easily solved: God can have as many separate bodies as He likes, whether human or bread or wine or indeed cat or TV set.

Two Kinds of Superstition

I have described how huge an error it is to oppose science and religion; instead, magic is opposed in different ways to both.

Now ancient superstitions were of two kinds. One postulated gods in charge of natural phenomena, as Zeus in Greek polytheism commanded thunder and lightning, and Demeter was a "goddess of agriculture," whatever that meant.

Scientific advance reveals that these gods do not exist. Where the Greeks saw teleology, we see physical causation. No rational being in fact controls a thunderstorm, and no goddess decides how good the harvest will be.

The second kind of superstition mistakenly found gods in what are actually demons. The ancients sought to propitiate these gods, to curry their favor with sacrifices, often human and bloody.

Religious advance affirms that demons exist. But it also teaches that demons are mankind's implacable enemies. The very attempt to appease or make a deal with a demon is a sin in itself capable of condemning you. The most you can get the devil to agree on is to kill you last (though he'll probably lie); and for that to happen, you'll yourself need to murder as many innocents as you can, as per the devil's own inevitable terms.

The dual liberation of man from the tyrannical whims of the nature gods and from the malice of the demon gods is one of his greatest civilizational achievements.

Re: Public Policy After Utopia

Will Wilkinson argues against "ideal political theorizing," a vision of a good and just society. This is because "all our evidence about how social systems actually work comes from formerly or presently existing systems... The further a possible system is from a historical system, and thus from our base of evidence about how social systems function, the more likely we are to be mistaken about how it would work if it were realized."

But what about, say, economic theory? Doesn't it give us useful information about how systems work? Wilkinson is unimpressed: "But all I really know is that the context matters a great deal, that a lot of interrelated factors affect the dynamics of low-wage labor markets, and that I can't say in advance which margin will adjust when the wage floor is raised. Indeed, whether we should expect increases in the minimum wage to hurt or help low-wage workers is a question Nobel Prize-winning economists disagree about." What a strange conclusion! Of course we cannot predict which specific persons will be harmed, in what ways, and to what extent. But that overall greater than zero harm will be inflicted is almost certain; and that minimum wage can only harm and can never benefit society is unequivocally true. No empirical calculations need to be made to arrive at this understanding; deductive economic logic is fully sufficient.

Similarly about political philosophy. Is the question "What is justice?" meaningless? What exactly are the methodological or substantive errors in, for example, Rothbard's Ethics of Liberty? If his conclusions or reasoning are vicious, Wilkinson owes us an attempt at a refutation. E.g., don't any two people have a libertarian right to sign a contract to exchange labor services for wages, the precise terms to be determined according to their pleasure? And doesn't minimum wage interfere with that right unjustly? What is so allegedly scandalous about an argument of this sort?

Wilkinson prefers a "non-ideological, empirical, comparative approach to political analysis... The best we can do is to go ahead and try to rank social systems in terms of the values we care about, and then see what we can learn." He then considers some "measurement attempts" which he feels suggest that "liberal-democratic capitalist welfare states" are the freest of all. Curiously, big governments, "in terms of government spending as a percentage of GDP," allegedly do not interfere with their freedom. It's therefore false that "liberty and redistribution are antithetical." Now it is of course true that government interventions take many different forms. For example:

  1. a high-tax country can have relatively few business regulations;
  2. high sales taxes may be offset by low taxes on business profits and capital gains which permits faster capital accumulation;
  3. absence of coercive occupational licensing schemes for workers can contribute to freedom;
  4. as can absence of any nationalized enterprises like Amtrak or the Post Office in the United States;
  5. taxes may be spent on "public goods" only and not on subsidies to private interests;
  6. free trade is of critical importance;
  7. and so is sound money;
  8. libertarians favor freedom of consumption, such as lack of alcohol or drug prohibitions;

and so on. But surely, the right to own the fruits of one's labor is a crucial part of liberty, as well. A ranking that does not count the harm of taxes to liberty will be different from a ranking that does. But it begs the question whether taxes are or are not un-libertarian. It is "ideal theory" that allows us to rank nations according to "freedom" in the first place. If Wilkinson assumes at the beginning that size of the government does not impinge on liberty, then the ranking he will generate will of course reflect this. But he cannot then use his ranking as evidence of the irrelevance of taxation in a circular manner.

Without a vision of a good society, how are we to improve ours? Via some sort of blind random mutations and natural selection? Let every country build and utilize a machine that would spit bills and statutes out at random. Most of these will be vicious, but some may turn out to be accidentally good. Then we watch the flow of immigration. People from countries with bad random laws will probably either starve or migrate to countries with better laws. The random laws in countries that gain people can then be judged superior to the laws in countries that lose them. Now this is a parody of what Wilkinson seems to imply, but a procedure of this sort may actually make some sense given a sufficient number of polities. If the biggest governments were all local, such that there were 100,000 "free cities" in the world, then competition between them would give each town a compelling incentive to improve its political system. But with the United States in particular being a global empire, such an evolutionary approach is hopeless.

Denmark, Wilkinson suggests, is comparatively "an actually-existing utopia." In my book, in (Introduction, I) I make the following counter-argument:

For example, even after the abolition of slavery, well into the 20th century, the American South was a status society: rigid, unfree for all people, black or white, featuring little social mobility up or down.

Many blacks seemed "happy" in it, because they knew that they could not by their own will and power change their social position. They could relax, because their destiny was not in their own hands.

The marked inferiority of blacks was made evident only in the "civil rights era," when white Americans agreed to give blacks (artificially, via unjust government privileges) a boost at making their own way in society. It turned out that when given this freedom, blacks eagerly voluntarily renounced it to the welfare state, and what freedom they decided to keep, they used mostly for violence and doing evil.

No wonder blacks ended up "unhappy." Who wouldn't after first-hand intimate acquaintance with one's own abject failure?

It is the same perhaps with Denmark which, despite some of the highest taxes in the somewhat developed world, has been found the "happiest country in the world" in "experienced well-being." I suggest that this is the well-being of slaves. A slave, admittedly, is not permitted to seek his own happiness. But he also cannot, in seeking this happiness, fail. Some people may judge this effect so wholesome and salubrious that slavery (or high taxes) will seem to them attractive.

In other words, a man's happiness can be increased if the possibility of failure for him is taken away. Generally, however, this can only be done by taking away the possibility of success, as well. It is true that many people would enthusiastically prefer this sort of stupefying security that would ensure that they neither improve nor worsen, neither progress nor deteriorate. A life in which nothing ever happens can indeed be peaceful. It is the essence of Americanism, however, to reject this sentiment. Americans tend to welcome a chance to succeed even at the cost of a real possibility of failure. But this attitude is by no means universal. As a result, even many Americans are "unhappy" by virtue of being losers in life. They have been tried and found wanting by their fellow men. Now they hate capitalism and long for the rigidity and boredom of suffocating statism, because capitalism exposed their social worthlessness for all to see.

There are then two ways of gaining inner peace: by achieving one's goal or by becoming convinced that the pursuit of this goal is hopeless. A desire can disappear by being either satisfied or extinguished in this manner. But the latter is utterly inhuman.

In short, one perfectly effective remedy against failure is never trying to succeed in the first place. This is the philosophy of the welfare state and socialism alike. Perhaps it works for the soulless automata in Denmark. But don't tell me it's a libertarian wisdom.

Comparing Knowledge and Love

To know lower things is better than to love them; vice versa for higher things. Thus, knowing cars exceeds loving them; but loving God is superior to knowing Him.

But other humans are on the same level as I; so knowing and loving them are equally good.

If the intellect is first among these two equals, we get disinterested benevolence toward mankind as a whole; if the will is first, we get intimate friendship with a particular individual.

Both the intellect and the will emit spiritual light; the difference is that reason is cold, and love is hot.

Contraception As Culture of Death

The reason for the Church to condemn and prohibit contraception is not to foster the salvation of any individual's soul, but to preserve the human race.

It has been ordained that sexual desire leads to and is a means to reproduction. To sever the connection is to endanger the human race and the perseverance of our species.

It may be objected that mankind does not at present seem to be in danger of extinction. But that may well be precisely because of the efforts of the Church. For example, most population growth in the foreseeable future is expected to come from black Africa, where they are too poor to afford and ignorant to use contraception. For all we know, many of the more advanced nations in Europe, Americas, and Asia are on their way out, or would be to a much greater extent if it were not for the Catholic Church.

There are few "self-interested" reasons to have kids. They require massive sacrifices from the parents yet end up merely as flowers on the parents' graves. The madness of sex works to counteract the allegedly "rational" calculations.

Of course, the Church is very much against illegitimate out-of-wedlock children, as well as single-parent households. Neither having neglected bastard children nor abortion are of course proposed as substitutes for contraception. Combining these two goals yields the Church's blessing of plenty of hot sex in marriage and large families.

Re: Confiscatory Taxation and Risk-Taking

Mises argues that

If the methods of taxation resorted to by the government bring about capital consumption or restrict the accumulation of new capital, the capital required for marginal employments is lacking and an expansion of investment which would have been effected in the absence of these taxes is prevented. The wants of the consumers are satisfied to a lesser extent only.

But this outcome is not caused by a reluctance of capitalists to take risks; it is caused by a drop in capital supply. (HA, 809-10)

Now I agree that entrepreneurship is rather unlike gambling; we might even say that there is an element of uncertainty to it which cannot be fully or even reasonably well quantified. "There is no such thing as a safe investment." But are all investments equally uncertain? Perhaps not, since he continues that in diversifying his portfolio, a businessman does not aim to "reduce his 'gambling risk.' He wants to improve his chances of earning profits." But these chances can differ considerably between projects.

Thus, confiscatory taxation has 3 effects.

First, insofar as it is theft by government. There is an absolute diminution of real capital, as money that would otherwise be spent on creation of capital-to-be-used-for-consumer-goods is spent instead on creating capital-to-be-used-for-bombs.

Second, insofar as it is confiscatory. This works to privilege the vested interests and prevent newcomers from accumulating capital and competing with established firms. "In this sense progressive taxation checks economic progress and makes for rigidity."

Third, insofar as taxation is not market neutral. The market is distorted by affecting perceived "opportunities" unequally. In an unhampered market, a potentially lucrative but very uncertain enterprise might still win, in the mind of the entrepreneur, over a less promising but more certain one. With progressive taxation, the especially high profits of the former opportunity would be taxed away much more rigorously, as the entrepreneur reckons, which may easily give him a good reason to pick the "safer" investment. Hence, consumers are served less efficiently because of this, as well.

Mises then is right that taxes "do not restrict the employment of all capital goods available"; "no capital good remains uninvested on account of" them. (811) But the distorting effect still exerts influence over the economy to the detriment of prosperity.

Or is Mises trying to be extra-subtle here? The very fact that entrepreneur Smith is deterred by progressive taxation from investing into a high-profit but uncertain project X, makes X less uncertain and more profitable for entrepreneur Jones. Likewise, the fact that Smith redirects his money toward a potentially less profitable but more certain project Y, decreases the profits of Y and increases its uncertainty for all others. This sort of "equilibration" allegedly neutralizes the market distortions from the taxes.

However, entrepreneurial opportunities combine in themselves unique objective and subjective aspects which moreover differ at any given time. If an opportunity is set aside by Smith at 10:24 am, it need not be expected that a different entrepreneur Jones may notice and act on it at 11:04 am. Therefore, such things cannot be predictably equilibrated. The vicious distortion of the market will persist.

Whether It Is Just to Use a Person As a Means?

It is almost a philosophical commonplace that one ought never to use another human being as merely a means to his own ends but treat him instead as an end in himself.

Of course, this proposition is self-evidently false, and no one believes it, anyway. In the free market, we all use each other as means to our own ends. Society is for me the most important means to the satisfaction of my own desires. Human beings make use of one another, and there are more or less successful forms of social cooperation. The description of these forms is the task of economics. For example, Mises explains:

The inhabitants of the Swiss Jura prefer to manufacture watches instead of growing wheat. Watchmaking is for them the cheapest way to acquire wheat.

On the other hand the growing of wheat is the cheapest way for the Canadian farmer to acquire watches. (HA, 395)

And Steven Landsburg echoes him in writing that

there are two technologies for producing automobiles in America. One is to manufacture them in Detroit, and the other is to grow them in Iowa. ... First you plant seeds, which are the raw material from which automobiles are constructed. You wait a few months until wheat appears. Then you harvest the wheat, load it onto ships, and sail the ships eastward into the Pacific Ocean. After a few months, the ships reappear with Toyotas on them.

International trade is nothing but a form of technology. The fact that there is a place called Japan, with people and factories, is quite irrelevant to Americans' well-being. To analyze trade policies, we might as well assume that Japan is a giant machine with mysterious inner workings that convert wheat into cars.

Any policy designed to favor the first American technology over the second is a policy designed to favor American auto producers in Detroit over American auto producers in Iowa. A tax or ban on "imported" automobiles is a tax or ban on Iowa-grown automobiles. (Armchair Economist, 197-8)

A person's dignity is affirmed even if he is used as a means to another's end, as long as the user respects the nature of the person used. As long as Smith is aware that Jones is different from a table or cat, they can cooperate for mutual profit with each person's dignity undiminished. The most remarkable thing, and the foundation of much of "natural law" is that if Smith fails to honor the full capacity of Jones' nature by committing what we call unjust acts or aggression against him, Smith harms not only Jones but himself, as well, since nature, in order to be commanded, must be obeyed.

Treating another person as an end means that one loves him as himself; that person is another self, whose happiness is to promoted with the same zeal as the lover's. But treating him as a means is, too, permissible, as long as his unique human nature is respected. According to Christian morality, a person is to be loved and treated as an end; according to mere natural morality, it is sufficient not to hate him or at the very least not to demonstrate such hatred in action by unjustly harming him.

But (2) self-interested cooperation in the state of fully healed nature is as much above (1) violent crime in the state of corrupted nature as (3) Christian love is above (2) indifferent self-interest.

One's nature is most fully appreciated by natural morality precisely under laissez-faire capitalism.

Thus, using another as a means to one's ends does not constitute a violation of human dignity, as long as the cooperators recognize and defer to their nature as rational animals.