Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Audacity of Ross Douthat

He has written a column on the Pope's encyclical. The basic idea is that the Pope got a wonderful idea when he advocated combining income redistribution to the poor with no birth control, and that Americans don't have the audacity to think in such political aisle-crossing ways:

But Benedict's encyclical is nothing if not political. "Caritas in Veritate" promotes a vision of economic solidarity rooted in moral conservatism. It links the dignity of labor to the sanctity of marriage. It praises the redistribution of wealth while emphasizing the importance of decentralized governance. It connects the despoiling of the environment to the mass destruction of human embryos.

This is not a message you're likely to hear in Barack Obama's next State of the Union, or in the Republican Party's response. It represents a kind of left-right fusionism with little traction in American politics.

A "vision of economic solidarity rooted in moral conservatism"? Who is it that one has solidarity with, in that scenario? It's a useful thinking exercise, because ultimately what the Pope advocated is a system where power and resources are more equally shared among men. Men of all classes and races. But the role of women in this system really is as one of those resources that are shared, and banning birth control guarantees that the choice when to have children and how many to have will not be held by the women.

I'm exaggerating, naturally, to make the underlying point clearer, and that point is about power. Who gets to have more self-determination, more rest and ease, more resources. And who does not. It's a devil's contract the Pope is offering, because so many goodies for the liberals and progressives are included in it and the cost is so easy to ignore as it falls upon women.

I call it a devil's contract partly because I doubt that the Pope would ultimately support all practical income redistribution efforts (based on history of the Catholic Church) and partly because the reactions of so many liberals and progressives has been to say "Hey, the Pope is on our side!" But mostly it's a devil's contract because it makes any woman who argues against it look like someone who is willing to sacrifice all the poor of this world for her own selfish little reasons.

Thus, it is important to see that the encyclical is about the sharing of power among more men.