Dark Brightness

Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science

Plagiarism central.

In which we quote freely. This is a blog, not a research paper, and I have no pretensions on creativity.

Let’s start with Bike Bubba.

The one bright thing I can think of from teaching students from the IRS Manual of Style is that a quorum of want-to-be writers of romance novels might bring the delights of the Instructions for Schedule B to that genre and kill it off in the same way Don Quixote killed off the genre of the tales of knights-errant.

That said, if people at the Department of “Education” can’t figure out that this is a colossally bad idea, I’d suggest that they’re not exactly adding much to the process, and our nation can safely cut well over $68 billion from the federal budget (plus “mandatory” spending in the same department) without any harm being done.

But please, don’t read it. Just pick up something by Mr. Clemens, or Shakespeare, or Homer, or Tolstoy, or Goethe instead. It’s the rebuke Arne Duncan, architect of a sixth grade reading level among Chicago Public graduates (and 40% don’t graduate at all–guess how Obama gets elected!), desperately needs.

I am always amazed that I am asked — if I go anywhere near the USA — if I was  am member of the German National Socialism and Workers Party (NSDAP) between 1933 and 1949. I was born in 1960: my Dad was too young to joint the NSDAP — he would have not, if the war had continued he would have fought for King and Empire — and he was born in 1933. Any Nazis are in their 90s now. Their time, praise God, has gone. We have other evils now.

This US department of education is stupid. Which is unsurprising: the society it springs from is quietly going bankrupt… due to bad choices. Grerp wrote this a while ago. It is incredibly sad, depressing, and accurate.

Two of my old classmates are currently getting divorced.  Amy* lost primary custody of her children in her divorce as her ex was a stay-at-home father [I have to say, this sounds off to me; how is this even possible?  Her kids are school-age.].  She gets them a few hours one weekday night and every other weekend.  She spaced on a critical job requirement and lost her teaching job; in this economy, it’s almost outside the realm of the possible that she will find another.  I don’t know her financial details, but the divorce had to be costly, and she has a mortgage.  She does have a new boyfriend.  A year from now she will be either living with him or with her parents and declaring bankruptcy, if she hasn’t already.  The math supports no other conclusion.

Michelle’s* husband came home one day and told her, “I don’t love you anymore, and I think I want a divorce.”  He’s never given her – or anyone else – a reason for why he wants this, he just does.  Together, they were just barely holding their heads above water.  They had a mortgage on a house that – like many, many houses in Michigan – is now underwater. Make that a mortgage and a second mortgage.  They each had some credit card debt.  She got downsized at work right before their second baby was born, and now only works a few hours a week.  After the lawyers get paid, they will be so far below water that the surface light will not be visible.  She has moved their two children into her parents’ house, and he’s looking for a roommate.

Michelle has two coworkers, sisters whom I also knew once upon a time.  The first is divorced, the second is getting divorced.  Her husband is bipolar and self-medicates with booze.  She has a couple of kids and was living with her parents, but now has moved in with her sister.  Her employment outlook is shaky; it looks like she’s going to lose her job.

All of these women came from the exact same family background as I did: intact families with middle class incomes and college educations.  All of them grew up in safe neighborhoods, went to good schools, attended church.  And all of them are now toast financially.  Not just for now, for at least a decade into the future, probably decades.  Not because their jobs were outsourced or because they bet too much on derivatives or had a major medical event.  Because of divorce.  It is so depressing.  And their kids won’t even have the stability – financially, psychologically, or even possibly physically – that they had.

I’ve said many times that I am divorced — and that has made me hate divorce even more than I did before it. The advertisements lie. You will be too poor and too tired to date: your risk of dissolving yourself into addictions or killing yourself goes up, and your kids will suffer. The names are asterisked because they are false.

Continuing on this theme, there are ways out of this. One is to get the government out of our lives. This will not be a disaster: in fact it could be good for us. Vanessa wrote something I had to drag out of the wayback machine on this.

The fact of the matter, is that the men’s actions are already relatively free of consequence, which is why many men think birth control and abortion are just fine and dandy. Back in the day, if a man created a child out of wedlock he would be pressured (at gunpoint, if needs be — hence the term “shotgun wedding”) to marry the woman and “man up” to his responsibilities. If he did not do so, he’d be completely ostracized. If he still didn’t marry her, then the woman would be ostracized. This discouraged both men and women from extramarital sex. This social policy, while it seems draconian today, made it clear: a father is essential and required and there is no substitute for him. Anyone so callous as to deprive a helpless child of a father deserves nothing but scorn.

Nowadays, we say, “Send a check for $250 once a month and we’ll call it quits.” And if he doesn’t have the money, we throw him in jail at taxpayer’s expense (essentially re-creating the debtor’s prison). Since the Mancession began, our local newspaper has had a parade of men listed as “Wanted for non-support.” How does that serve his children? By offering up a fee as a substitute to fatherhood, we have declared fathers as irrelevant. That is why so many women today think there is nothing wrong with single motherhood. That is why they say, “I don’t need a man. I have my own money.” We have made fathers worth 250 dollars a month (or whatever sum he is paying).

Those men who are “manning up” today are doing so out of a sense of personal responsibility, not out of fear of the state. There are plenty of ways of accounting yourself poor so that you don’t have to cough up the dough. But even those that want to be involved in their children’s lives (and not just reduced to a check) are regularly impeded by the very mothers that plead weakness and poverty. They are turned away at the door (or married fathers are no-fault divorced) and told, “We don’t need you. Just send the check.” In reality, the money is less important to the children than the presence of the father.

Let that be a lesson to us all of the evil impact of unintended consequences.

I am not saying that these children and their mothers should sleep out on the street. Hardly. But that is what private charity is for. Government largess, unlike charity, fuels a sense of personal entitlement and therefore feeds the vice, rather than reducing it. The Catholic Church has always been generous, even to those who were suffering from their own stupidity or to those outside of the law (such as illegal immigrants today). It should continue to do so, and the government should get out of the way.

You see, the modern system of divorce is bad, bad, bad. Yes, it appears civilized. But it damages women economically by making them dependent on the state (as Grerp shows) and then makes them dependent on the state — which they think of as an entitlement. I’ll admit that most of the world is not as punitive to men as the USA — you cannot have your professional license removed or sent to jail in NZ if you don’t pay child support, but the Inland Revenue (IRS for you Americans) runs the system and they are very good at getting money.  The system is unjust, as Dalrock notes.

Men don’t start a family to become half of a broken home, whether this is the half which pays child support or the half which gets the children.  Men want to lead an intact family and work together with their wife to give their children the best.  While taking a man’s children and then forcing him to pay for the honor is adding insult to injury, winning sole custody and having to pay others to do much of the parenting isn’t a great option either.  Even though no doubt most men would greatly prefer the latter over the former, we shouldn’t overlook the great injustice committed by a wife who blows up her family without serious cause regardless of who wins custody.

To this I have no simple or easy solutions, only painful ones.   I think that a sustainable system looks remarkably like what Vanessa called Catholic libertarianism and I would call republicanism. (Rescued from the wayback machine. I;m going to add some glosses).

[Vanessa began her list with]Well, I’ve been doing more and more reading on the topic and I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what Catholic libertarianism would entail, in the concrete:

  • The federal government would be reduced drastically, with some agencies (such as the Department of Education) eliminated completely and others devolved to the states. [Not an issue in NZ: we have no federal government. In Australia, Canberra needs to shrink and the EU system has to go}

  • Reform of Congress. [MMP can go away, please. 20 seats, 3 top polling candidates, single transferable vote. Like Ireland. That would mean 60 members for NZ’s four million. And force Parliament to meet less].

  • Abolish the draft and any other compulsory government service.

  • Abolition of hate crime legislation.

  • Repeal of all existing and prohibition of all future executive orders, which are presidential legislation and therefore clearly unconstitutional.[NZ does not have a constitution. Require all things that the Queen will assent to have passed Parliament. Including honours and commissions]

  • Repeal all minimum-wage statues, price-fixes, and welfare laws. Charity is a Christian duty and should be a matter for private citizens, not government. Spending other people’s money is not charity, it is extortion.

  • Close the IRS and end federal income tax. [Not possible in NZ as we don’t have a federal system. But a flat (poll) tax and proof of taxpaying status before access to the ballot box or civil court would work quite nicely]

    • Instead, the budget of the federal government should be covered by the individual states, proportional to their population.
    • Forbid the federal government from running a deficit.
    • State governments should get rid of progressive taxes (which are inherently unfair and lower civic participation) and instead have a flat tax of some sort.
  • Health care would be devolved completely to the states. [Devolved to the individual. Who can then buy care packages — from his union, his guild, or on the open market. In NZ unions have run health care systems, and they can again.]

    • I mean completely: that includes Medicare, Medicaid, etc. The only exception would be military hospitals, which are in the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense.
    • At the state level, catastrophic health care should be universal, as it is today, but it should be reorganized to be more efficient and cost-effective. Each state would be free to design its own system, whether government-run or privately-run with government subsidies for those unable to obtain their own coverage.
  • All vices (damage to oneself or one’s property) would be made legal and all crimes (damage to another or their property) illegal.Civil marriage (and everything similar) would be abolished.

    • Vices such as prostitution, alcohol and drug use, homosexuality, etc. would still be immoral, but they would no longer land you in court. Vices are not crimes, nor should they be categorized as such. Crimes breach another person’s right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, which is why they should be punished by the state, who is charged with protecting those rights. Abortion and euthanasia would be categorized as felonies and banned completely. Both involve the purposeful damage (murder) of another, and are therefore clearly crimes.
    • I know it burns Catholics to make such a concession, but we must remember that liberty also includes the right to sin, hurt yourself, screw up your life, or waste your existence. Free will. It is the Church’s duty (along with the like-minded out there) to speak out against vice and offer help to such people that find themselves trapped in it, rather than viewing those practicing vice as criminals who must be punished. We Catholics must also not forget that the practice of our own religion was once outlawed in other countries, and that it was precisely this respect of liberty that brought our ancestors here.
    • Rather than being criminal offenses, vices would be regulated by local governments to protect other citizens (especially children) from their undue influence. In other words, to protect others’ right to their pursuit of happiness. This could be limiting prostitution to brothels outside of the city limits, prohibiting “driving while intoxicated”, outlawing public intoxication as a nuisance, or allowing smoking (of any kind) only in specially designated venues.
  • Education would become a market. Government (state) funds would be attached to children through a voucher system, instead of going to specific schools. Public schools would still exist but would only stay open as long as they could convince parents to send their children there.

When Vanessa wrote this, in January three years ago, it all sounded theoretical. But I fear it will not be soon. The US is as functionally bankrupt as the EU as is Greece and Spain. Everything is interconnected.  The system that Vanessa describes is quite similar to how things were before the welfare state (which was invented as a system to deal with war wounded in the period of total war envisioned by the Prussians and Nipponese).

We cannot afford to have a social welfare system. We can afford to have fair law courts, private contract, and charity. That combination of private virtue and British Civil Law made Singapore and Hong Kong. It made the USA. It made the Empire. It will work again. But I fear there will be much pain. For hubris has consumed the state, and the current disconnection between the elite in Wellington, Canberra, London, Ottawa and Washington and the rest of the Anglosphere is a symptom of an impending fall.