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Is It Just the Economy?

June 16, 2022 4 min read

For the 1992 presidential election, Clinton campaign advisor James Carville adeptly coined a phrase that helped unseat the incumbent George H. W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid!” This mantra was successfully used to focus Americans’ attention on the sluggish state of the economy, allowing Clinton to present himself as a fresh new start for the nation.

Much of our social and political discourse focuses on the economy, as it is often taken for granted that civilization’s health can be determined by the state of the economy. In fact, a core post-World War II agreement (that largely lives on today) has been that if we could simply “solve” the economy, countless other social problems would be wiped away, even as disagreement persists as to how to solve the economy. While it is true that the ups and downs of the economy are often felt by individuals as they attempt to provide for their basic needs and plan for the future, Christians recognize that much more goes into a healthy civilization than material prosperity. We should be careful not to overapply what we learn from the field of economics, mistaking it for a spiritual vision or a complete guide to human flourishing. Man does not live by bread alone, and neither does a culture.

Even within its own proper place, the field of economics is empirically challenging on two levels, often taking on aspects similar to weather forecasting and social engineering. A core mistake of economy-first mentalities is that they tend to overlook these difficulties, instead presuming that human beings and societies are easily programmable and predictable. We hear it discussed often from cadres of experts: “If only taxes were raised (or lowered) in this sector, and this industry were regulated (or de-regulated), everything else would fall into place.” Such a mentality mistakes the economy for a simple machine and takes on a deterministic view of humanity. The constant unpredictability of human freedom and the ancient unpredictability of original sin have prevented humanity from ultimately “solving” the economy and the economy from solving all our problems.

Free-market fundamentalists and Marxist communists who blindly adhere to ideology contribute much of the frustration that often surrounds economic debate. A compromise in the realm of paid family leave is being offered again by pro-lifers and advocates of social safety net policies.

Bishop Barron explores the thought of René Girard, perhaps most famous for his insights on human desire and scapegoating. Human desire (and thus consumerism) is often driven by others: we rarely want something because we recognize it as good, but rather want it because someone else wants it. We also tend to set up convenient scapegoats for the sake of unity and progress. It is not difficult to see how these impulses affect us today in terms of both social and economic realities, most especially in the social media “swamp.”

In the realm of social policy, a professor of theological anthropology examines the modern distinction between “gender” and “sex,” and highlights the surprising and disconcerting use of that distinction.

The hot button issues touched by modern debates around sex, gender, and anthropology have reached a fever pitch throughout America, resulting in ongoing violence and vandalism against pregnancy centers and churches. (Read more here from The Washington Post.)

In the Church, Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck announced the opening of a diocesan investigation into the life of Michelle Duppong, the first step in the process for canonization. Duppong, a North Dakota native who served as a FOCUS Missionary before working for the Diocese of Bismarck, passed away from cancer in 2015 at age 31.

The Catholic Tradition manifest in the lives of the saints is transmitted in many ways, including artistic abilities. Denise Trull highlights one way the Tradition continues through the preparation of sacred vestments.

Finally, an homage-sequel of the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun has been declared the last film of the twentieth century due to its exciting exposition of what has become unusual in the media: patriotism and family life.

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