Russell and Duenes

Archive for April 2010

When You See the Pope is Right

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In preparation for my Ethics class, I again read through Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth). Of course, the Pope’s argument went over like a lead balloon back in ’68, and has been scoffed at all the more over the decades since then. Yet many Protestants are finally coming around and taking the Pope’s assertions about the nature of marital intercourse seriously. And how could anyone who has read this not? The central thesis is that sexual intercourse between husband and wife “is based on an inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.” In other words, when we try to pull apart the central purpose of married love, namely, babies and bonding, we get disaster. And artificial birth control methods accomplish this separation of the unitive and procreative purpose. As Albert Mohler says in his excellent recent essay on the 50th anniversary of The Pill, “The idea that sex would be severed from childbearing is a very modern concept — and a concept made meaningful only by the development of the Pill and its successor birth control technologies. The severing of this relationship represents a quantum change in human life and relationships, not to mention morality.”

The Pope saw this very clearly and made the following predictions about the effects of artificial birth control.

1) It will “open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” Check!

2) It opens the way for “a man [who] grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods [to] forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” Check!

3) “Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law…Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.” Ah, did we not hear Nancy Pelosi saying that part and parcel of the stimulus bill was the advancement of contraceptive use? Check!

The Pope sounds like a prophet here. Can we blame all of the above problems on artificial contraception use? I doubt it, but the Pope wasn’t grasping at straws when he wrote this. And how could he have been so prescient if it was all by coincidence? I would commend the reading of Humanae Vitae to any and all of my readers, if for no other reason than to consider whether one has properly assessed the moral issues involved in the use of birth control, or whether one has considered the use of birth control to even be a moral issue at all.



Written by Michael Duenes

April 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Greed and the Role of Prices

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It is quite right to say that no particular economic system foments greed. Greed is something that, as Jesus said, comes out from the wicked hearts of men. Having said that, it is certainly not the case that each particular economic system is equal in how it handles the greed that is inevitably there. What I would argue, and have argued before, is that greed has less deleterious effects in a market system where prices are allowed to function. This is true because a greedy person cannot just charge whatever he’d like for whatever it is he wants to trade in. Prices respond to market forces. But the more control a governing authority has over the economy, with the power of force and coercion behind it, the less prices can have their proper effects. So, greed plays out in communism in different, and I would argue, more destructive ways than it does in capitalism. The government surely has a vested interest in making sure that businesses adhere to laws of honesty and justice. But other than that, government should allow for the freest flow of trade between willing parties.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Posted in Duenes, Economics

The Catastrophe of Illegitimacy

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From this week’s National Review: “The proportion of all births occuring outside marriage reached a record high of 40.6 percent in 2008…The ratio in 2008 was a mind-boggling 72.3 percent among non-Hispanic blacks, 28.6 percent among non-Hispanic whites, and 52.5 percent among Hispanics.” I’ll leave you to draw the proper implications this has socially, economically, and most importantly, spiritually.


HT: National Review

Written by Michael Duenes

April 28, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Duenes, Ethics

Response to: A Needful Reminder about Greed

with 9 comments

Instead of posting this in the comment section, I feel it is best served here.

If Wilson is correct in his statement that “In the Bible, greed is wanting to take other people’s money,” then the greediest people are those who devote their lives to wanting other people’s money. This is the mantra of Wall Street. It has permeated every pore of the financial sector of the world. It is not the mantra of government. I agree that government has a tendency for greed, but mostly to push agendas forward that aid their constituents (and sometimes their self interest). The constituency of Wall Street tends to be Wall Street (see Goldman Sachs). That is not to say that financiers on Wall Street don’t concern themselves with the financial outcomes of those who hire them, but their entire structure is built on making money for the sake of building wealth for themselves first and their constituents second. The government taxes to make money to provide services first. Are many government leaders greedy and corrupt: YES! But the overwhelming evidence points to Big Business as “designed for greed” versus government which is “greedy by default.” I think it makes a significant difference. I am not defending government, but rather casting the most dispersion upon the group that has the first level of blame in the current financial problem: Wall Street.

D-  I honestly don’t know why you feel you need to constantly defend Wall Street. It seems as if you are holding, as Wilson is, to some sort of conservative desire to promote unadulterated capitalism. Capitalism did not work in the housing crash- and it is OK for that to be the case. Capitalism may work in bringing us out of the crisis- that is OK too. But sometimes it just doesn’t work and greed is to blame. This is one of those times. Maybe you are seeking a sense of internal justice, to see everyone blamed for our financial mess, then we can blame the government and “common folk” too- there is enough blame to go around.

But Wall Street does not need a righteous defender. They need repentance not justification.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 27, 2010 at 11:14 am

A Needful Reminder about Greed

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We are a bit confused these days about greed. Now let’s just get this out of the way at the beginning. I’m against greed. More importantly, God is against it; vehemently, I think it’s safe to say. But what bothers me is that we are constantly told by our cultural “talkers” that Wall Streeters are greedy, and business CEO’s are greedy, and well, just about any capitalist is greedy. And only they are greedy. So this becomes the gospel truth. But what we’re almost never told is that government confiscators are also greedy, and only governmental leaders have the power of laws to coerce people into handing over their money. No corporation has that power. We need to be told both truths. I came across this thought from another excellent post today by Douglas Wilson in his continuing series of posts on government, taxes and greed. I don’t agree with all he says, but I agree with this.

We do not yet understand where the greed really is. In our public discourse, greed is still defined as people wanting to keep their own money, and it is never, ever defined as oily functionaries wanting to take that money away from them. In the Bible, greed is wanting to take other people’s money. In this perverse system [i.e., our current U.S. tax system], those who want to do that are “the altruistic ones,” and those who are not so sure are the greedy ones. Those who object to the nature of our tax system are still way too defensive about this. But we ought not have any trouble recognizing that our taxes are too high, too complicated, and utterly unjust and corrupt. The same three things apply to those who levy the taxes.


HT: Douglas Wilson

Written by Michael Duenes

April 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm