Volume > Issue > Briefly: May 2011

May 2011

The Future of Adam and Eve: Finding the Lost Gift

By Mary Rosera Joyce

Publisher: LifeCom (Box 1832, St. Cloud MN 56303)

Pages: 267

Price: $19.95

Review Author: Larry A. Carstens

The first time I read one of Mary Rosera Joyce’s works was when I was a college student in the late 1980s. It firmly established her in my mind as one of the greatest teachers of my life. The book was titled Women and Choice, and its effect on my thinking and my religious faith was nothing short of an epiphany.

Before I read Women and Choice, I thought of abortion and contraception as acts that were wrong because “the Church said so.” After reading Joyce, I fully understood the profoundly anti-woman nature of abortion and contraception. Likewise, I understood the aspects of feminism that are true and defensible and therefore worthy of respect, those likely to serve as “springboards” for meaningful dialogue between otherwise mutually opposed camps — feminists and orthodox religionists.

On a number of levels, Joyce’s most recent book, The Future of Adam and Eve: Finding the Lost Gift, takes her profound insights several steps further than Women and Choice. Joyce is capable of confronting her opponents strongly and effectively, in the tradition of a number of the greatest religious leaders of the past. For example, St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was martyred at Ausch­witz in 1941, was known for his willingness to engage his opponents. Throughout the 1930s he was an avid reader of periodical literature published by the Nazis and the communists — he wanted to understand and engage those whom he opposed. Both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI are likewise known for their engagement of the dominant secular humanist ideology that passes for today’s intellectual discourse. Going back a number of centuries, the best and brightest of Christian thinkers — e.g., Augustine, Aquinas, and Thomas More — have echoed the stance taken by Christ himself: “You have heard…. But I say to you….”

Joyce’s style of confrontation carries on this tradition and applies it to the present day: She engages and responds to the dominant feminism that is “redefining” today’s culture and has made inroads into most main­line Protestant denominations and many sectors of the Catholic Church. Other popular figures have done so as well, including Mary Ann Glendon and — dare I say it? — Sarah Palin. But Joyce has been at it much longer. In 1970 she co-authored New Dynamics in Sexual Love with her husband, Robert. The Joyces belong to the apparent minority of Catholic intellectuals of those heady days who professed a clear and unequivocal agreement with Pope Paul VI’s “consensus-shattering” 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

When considering Joyce’s latest book, an observation made by C.S. Lewis in the Preface to his novel The Great Divorce comes to mind: “Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.” Lewis pointed out that whereas evil tends to produce uniform results, and people who fall under its spell tend to be like each other, goodness causes, embraces, and encourages greater and greater differences.

One of the insightful theses Joyce discusses is the way in which Western philosophy went wrong. For example, the “rational animal” definition of human nature bases our personhood in animality, rather than our body within our personhood. As she puts it, “Western philosophy suffered from these profound shortsights, eventually committed suicide, and was buried by mathematics and technology.”

Joyce’s prose reads at times like poetry, at times like philosophy, and, occasionally, like a dialogue or debate. There are humorous, yet wise, imaginary conversations between “Eve and the Puritan” and “Adam and the Playboy” and some between all four. The overall effect is that The Future of Adam and Eve packs a punch full of knowledge, wisdom, and endless potential for discussion. It is not for those who prefer light-hearted or vacuous reading, or for the faint of heart. But it is highly recommended for those who want to think, learn, and grow in wisdom, for those whose intellectual goal is, in Tennyson’s words, “to strive to seek to find and not to yield.”

Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element

By John D. Mueller

Publisher: ISI Books

Pages: 400

Price: $27.95

Review Author: Thomas Storck

John Mueller’s Redeeming Economics sets out an ambitious program to recover what the author claims are economic principles Adam Smith and most of his followers ignored or forgot, principles he traces largely to St. Augustine. Although Mueller surely deserves praise for his criticisms of Adam Smith and the classical and neo-classical traditions, his model for the reconstruction of economic thought is not the correct one. To be sure, such a reconstruction is very much needed — economics now operates as one of the chief intellectual forces against Catholic culture in that it prescinds from any concern for the purpose of economic activity and simply assumes a thoroughgoing materialism and commercialism. Mueller, however, largely accepts the type of deductive economic analysis represented by the neo-classical school, and to a large extent he seems to want to co-opt Augustine, Aquinas, and the scholastic tradition into its service. For example, his reading of passages from Augustine and Aquinas sometimes imputes more than what is there, as when he claims that Aquinas attributes to Augustine the “mathematical formulation” of distribution in an article of the Sum­ma that is devoted to the question, “Whether one neighbor should be loved more than another,” that says nothing at all about mathematics.

More serious are his statements about economic policy. He repeats the standard free-market dogmas about not interfering with market forces, despite the fact that traditional Catholic thought, including explicit papal statements, is highly skeptical that such forces can be counted on to produce just outcomes, especially with regard to wages.

Mueller’s criticisms of fractional-reserve banking and money creation are correct, but his advocacy of the gold standard as the alternative is not. Money is primarily a means of exchange of real economic goods and services, and the notion that money should itself have some economic value is to confuse money with a real economic good, instead of seeing it as a claim on real economic goods. Moreover, while the money supply, to be useful, must roughly keep pace with the world’s level of economic activity, the supply of gold depends mostly on how much has been discovered and mined. Just because the current fractional-reserve system of money creation is neither wise nor just does not mean that commodity money should be embraced instead.

The crucial point in the study of economics is the question of how to approach the workings of an economy. Can we formulate a few principles from which we then deduce what is supposed to occur? Or do we carefully observe how economies in fact work, and acknowledge the reality and importance of such factors as customs and institutions that can change over time, as well as human greed and machinations, all of which most economists ignore or downplay? And allied to this, in economic policy the crucial question is whether we basically regard the economy as a self-regulating mechanism, which may need a little adjustment or guidance here and there but which basically runs best when market forces are allowed to operate unhindered, or do we realize, as John Paul II wrote in Cen­tesimus Annus (no. 35), that it is necessary that “the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State….” Any attempt to elaborate a theoretical study of economic activity or formulate economic policy must grapple with these questions, and in both cases Mueller’s fundamental position is the deductive approach and its basic reliance on market forces.

The intended readership of this book is also unclear. From the numerous graphs and econometric equations (which the author does relegate to notes), one would think that professional economists are its intended audience. But Mueller claims that it is “intended for the general reader,” and for the most part it is written with the generally educated public in mind. In any case, despite the author’s claims, this book does not constitute the renewal of economic thought that we need.

Where can such a renewal be found? Although the popes have never intended to present an economic theory, nor is it their office to do so, there is a kind of economic analysis implicit in their social encyclicals and other documents, and it is there that Catholics would wisely look to begin formulating economic theories. If anything deserves to be considered as scholastic or neo-scholastic economic theory, it is that method which has been consistently employed by the popes since at least Leo XIII to understand economic realities.

Mueller deserves praise for his willingness to make criticisms of neo-classical economics, but he stops short of the truly radical criticisms to be found in papal writings on the social question.

Waging War to Make Peace

By Susan Yoshihara

Publisher: Praeger

Pages: 230

Price: $49.95

Review Author: Elizabeth Hanink

When NATO bombs fell over Kosovo in 1999, it may have caught some by surprise. Didn’t we just declare the Kosovo Albanians terrorists? And now we are coming to their rescue? Yet others probably felt like they had waited forever to see any action against Slobodan Milo­sevic. Regardless of how you viewed the bombing, no one could claim the action itself was precipitous. Indeed, there had been months of consultation among leaders seeking consensus, not to mention strenuous efforts to force both sides to the bargaining table. Eventually, the sight of hundreds of thousands of displaced and traumatized people persuaded enough governments to intervene.

Iraq, our current quagmire, shares some similarities with Koso­vo. No one could contend that the war launched by President George W. Bush caught anyone by surprise; we had been engaged in sanctions and over-flights for years. Still, many of the same tough policy questions were present. In both cases, observers warned about proceeding without the agreement of the UN. Did any nation have the authority to intervene in the affairs of another sovereign state, even if its leader was abusing his own people? And yet can states that are ruled by thugs even claim sovereignty? If the abuse reaches the level of genocide, do outsiders have an obligation to intervene? For that matter, does national sovereignty, as usually presented, really exist anymore? (Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain thought not. Only God is sovereign, said he, even if modern nations make an idol of their status.)

All of these are interesting questions, and Susan Yoshihara, vice president for research at the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, and a former combat logistics helicopter pilot, takes a close look at the diplomatic maneuvering that preceded both conflagrations. In the end, there was strong allied support to engage in the Kosovo bombing. Iraq produced just the opposite outcome. Many of Amer­ica’s allies, and certainly many of her citizens, disagreed with the decision to go to war. Why the difference?

As Yoshihara points out, not everyone uses the same justification for interference in other countries. But studying the power, law, and principles of nations clarifies the outlines of the debate. We better appreciate how leaders come to their decisions and why even allies might have contentious disagreements.

And timing is everything. In the case of Kosovo, German leaders used humanitarian arguments to persuade their own population of the necessity of intervention. At the time, Germany had 1.3 million refugees from Yugoslavia, including 300,000 ethnic Albanians. Externally, officials used language that emphasized the duty of Germany to participate in international affairs (after a 50-year hiatus) to help maintain international peace and security. Ultimately, Germany chose in 1999 to act without a specific UN mandate to use force. But by 2003, in the midst of an election, humanitarian concerns about Iraq carried less weight, and the argument that peaceful means had not been exhausted carried the day. Without additional UN support, Germany chose not to intervene.

France, in both cases, though not for the purest of motives, insisted that the UN “was the only legitimate framework for building peace” — to use the words of Jacques Chirac. No mandate, no force. Meanwhile, England, led during both crises by Tony Blair, saw humanitarian necessity as trumping the authority of the UN Security Council.

These fights are over, you might say. Since 2006 Kosovo has been an independent nation. Milosevic died while on trial at The Hague for war crimes. The U.S. continues to slog on in Iraq, of course; but whether to intervene or not is moot. The question now is how to get out.

But, as Yoshihara points out, Sudan and Iran now pose some of the same quandaries. A key question is why, if it is in our national interest to deal militarily with Iran, do we need the consent of a UN that is dysfunctional because of the rules governing the Security Council? Couldn’t we appeal to the authority of another body? If the rule of Omar al Bashir has resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, do we need to wait until China — and everyone else — is on board before taking action in Darfur?

Waging War to Make Peace is not so much a prescription for how nations should act but rather a searching exploration of how they make decisions. Using the structure of a doctoral dissertation rather than a narrative form that might better hold the general readers’ interest, Yoshihara examines four nations that played a pivotal role in the diplomacy leading up to two recent military actions. She offers important requirements for future deliberations: States­­men should be more responsible in what they say about authority, justification, and obligation in discussing the use of force; human rights or humanitarian considerations should receive a full hearing, even if there is no agreement with the governments that pursue them; the costs of action and non-action merit serious debate.

Yoshihara thinks that the place to make a new start is with values upon which we all agree. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights embraces many of these values, though Yoshihara is alert to efforts to undermine that document by heaping on claims to pseudo-rights such as “reproductive health.” She also sees the need for leaders to understand just-war theory better in light of rogue states with weapons of mass destruction and the current tendency to use just-war theory as a political tool.

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