The study sessions are most excellent, especially since I am learning in areas I know virtually nothing. So I get to indulge my curiosity bump fully in areas like limited government, economics and Catholic Social Thought. You can see more about Acton and hear recording of some of the lectures here.
In a sin marred world, things always go bad. So who limits the badness? God ultimately, but within the limits He sets, is it government regulation or free market forces? The State is to punish wrong doers (Rom. 13:4) but who limits the evil state? Acton and I believe that the better force is people as a whole (market) than government officials. For example, should government or the market set prices? I remember 1979 when the government tried to set gasoline prices. It was a disaster. But I also remember the situation a couple of years ago when gas went to $4.00 per gallon and people were calling for government intervention. It didnâ€™t happen and the prices in Portland are around $2.70 per gallon now.
Limited government means the state should not do everything, should not be the agency responsible for social services. Other agencies, church, family, business have areas they do better than the state. When people get to places of power, they tend to lose contact with the ordinary people, lose the common good as a top value, and serve people of power and influence. BTW, Michael Miller defined common good as â€œthe sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals, to reach fulfillment more fully and more easily.â€ Of course that begs the question of what fulfillment really means, but the direction is right on. Examples of things the government is not the best agency is feeding the people or converting the people to Jesus.
One question that made me think: should all immoral things be illegal? Should all things that are morally wrong also be against the law of the state? What of adultery? It is surely immoral, but should it be illegal? I absolutely want it limited. Do I want the state watching and punishing that behavior? If so the state has to watch lots of behavior to see if itâ€™s adultery. I find myself thinking Iâ€™d rather not have the state doing that. Ditto with lies. Some lies are illegal: contract fraud for example. But what if a father lies to his children about his porn addiction?
In the area of economics, should we develop our thinking from the concept of scarcity (distribution of limited goods) or the basis of maximizing exchange of goods, many of which are not scarce. Information and grace are examples of non-scarce goods. The goal is win win where both parties are better off after the trade than before. So the limits are that there canâ€™t be fraud, exploitation and private property which is to say, I must have ownership of the thing I trade.
Does justice mean equal distribution of goods (think Robin Hood and take for the rich to give to the poor) or does it mean all people work under the same law? Iâ€™m inclined to the latter. It frustrates me that government employees have PERS and we have Social Security and our 401K programs.
Are economics explained by seeing people maximizing their material well being? In part, but certainly not exclusively. Think of all the gifts that are given and non-material oriented activities like parenting, church, and such.
Thereâ€™s lots more and I still have two days to go!