Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Winters, Camosy & Garnett, cont'd

Michael Sean Winters has added to this discussion among him, Charlie Camosy, and me about politics, abortion, social-welfare policy, Catholic Social Teaching, prudence, and dissent.  His latest is here.  At some point, I realize, disagreement is what it is.  I am confident that my conclusions regarding, for example, the pressing need to rein in public-employee unions, reduce regulation, and reform entitlement programs do not proceed from first-order loyalty to a political party or from a misguided form of libertarianism, but from a faithful and informed effort to learn and confront the facts, and to consider which policies and programs are most likely, all things considered, to promote the common good, the protection of the vulnerable, and the flourishing of persons.  I hope that Winters shares my confidence, even though he has (obviously) arrived at different conclusions.

Three quick things:  I have to admit that I am not entirely sure Winters disagrees with what I have been saying to Camosy about abortion.  As everyone knows, overturning Roe would not end abortion.  But, I am insisting, Roe must still be overruled, because it was the misguided constitutionalization of a gravely wrong idea.  Yes, we need to "change our democracy," but an essential step toward changing it is removing (or reducing, as much as we can) the democracy-distorting and democracy-stifling force that is the Roe-Casey abortion regime.  A meaningfully pro-life legislator or citizen will not imagine that Roe is the whole ball game, but he or she cannot (in my view) endorse it.

Second, it is not my view that (quoting Winters) we or should "let tax policy, and economic policies more generally, off the hook" or that "Catholics can essentially think whatever they want on these subjects."  (It is my judgment that Catholics must support reasonably designed school-choice programs, for example!)  I'm no Randian, and Winters knows that I do not think Christians should be uncritical and unthinking fans of "modern ideas about the economy."  (And, we are both fans of Brad Gregory's The Unintended Reformation.) They also, though, should not romanticize pre-modern ideas about money, finance, production, investment, etc., or underappreciate all that (substantially) free people can achieve and have achieved through (substantially) free markets.  I join Winters in celebrating Gaudium et spes, but also Centissimus annus, with its (qualified) embrace of the free economy and its warnings about the potential dangers and dysfunctions of the "social assistance state." 

And, I appreciate, just as Camosy does, the challenge of figuring out the extent to which law can and should prohibit or deter various wrongs, but continue to think that Catholics should distinguish between the "practical" and "prudential" work that is involved in figuring out the best marginal tax rate and the question whether laws are tolerable that exclude vulnerable, disabled, and unborn persons from the political community's protection against violence.  


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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