Wednesday, January 24, 2024

A Tweet to Ponder: II

My previous post on Catholic economic under-performance in Prussia during the late 19th C got me thinking about confounding factors that could have influenced the disparity.  I mean it may have been possible that the Catholic situation may have come about because the Protestants in Prussia may have rigged the game against them. After all Catholic/Protestant relations were quite hostile for a long time and perhaps, if Catholics had been "left alone", they would have reached or exceeded economic parity.

The problem with this line of thinking is that there is a very easy argument to refute this with and that is the economic situation of the Jews.

Now, in 19C. Prussia, Catholics and Protestants disagreed on many things but one thing that they both seemed to agree on was antisemitism.   And while the antisemitism in Prussia was not the antisemitism of the Nazi party, hostility to the Jews was widespread and many in many higher bourgeoisie environments they were considered declassé and deliberately excluded from them.

The things is that none of these social disadvantages translated to a decline in economic performance. In fact it did the opposite. This paper deals with Germany as a whole but I think that the numbers would be fairly representative of Prussia:

In the early twentieth century, a dense corporate network was created among the large German corporations ("Germany Inc."). About 16% of the members of this corporate network were of Jewish background. At the center of the network (big linkers) about 25% were Jewish. The percentage of Jews in the general population was less than 1% in 1914. [ED]What comparative advantages did the Jewish minority enjoy that enabled them to succeed in the competition for leading positions in the German economy? Three hypotheses are tested: (1) The Jewish economic elite had a better education compared to the non-Jewish members of the network (human capital). (2) Jewish members had a central position in the corporate network, because many of them were engaged in finance and banking. (3) Jewish members created a network of their own that was separate from the overarching corporate network (social capital). The density of this Jewish network was higher than that of the non-Jewish economic elite (embeddedness). Our data do not support any of these hypotheses. The observed correlation between Jewish background and economic success cannot be explained by a higher level of education, a higher level of social capital, or a higher proportion of Jewish managers engaged in (private) banking.
In a footnote in the article, Weber himself is cited with data from the late 19th C which illustrates the extent of disparity among faiths:   

Average capital tax per 1000 persons of each denomination for 1895: Protestants:954,900 Mark; Catholics 589,800 Mark; Jews: 4 Million Mark.
If the economic field was "rigged" against everyone who wasn't Protestant then the Jews had found a way to bypass the system.

The point of this is if we control for economic performance within one country--where we can eliminate the confounding variable of different national economic policy--and religious bias as well, we see that religious differences really do matter when it comes to economic performance.

Finally, its not as if Catholics at the time weren't aware of their economic status. From the Catholic Encylopaedia of 1907.
One important consequence of the Kulturkampf was the earnest endeavour of the Catholics to obtain a greater influence in national and municipal affairs; how weak they formerly were in both respects was clear to them only after the great conflict had begun. These efforts took the name of the Paritätsbewegung, i.e., a struggle for equality of civil recognition. In turn the discussions awakened and fed by this movement soon led to a vigorous self-questioning among the Catholic masses as to the fact of, and the reasons for, their backwardness in academic, literary, and artistic life, also in the large field of economic activities (industry, commerce, etc.). On the other hand, the reconciliation between Church and State made it possible for the Catholics of Germany to participate more earnestly than hitherto in the public life of the Fatherland, in illustration of which we may point to the notable contributions of the Centre party. (1896-1904) to the solution of the great imperial problems of that period.
Now the reason why economic performance matters is because of the relationship of economic power to modernity.  If we consider modernity as being about the material conditions of existence, then those who control the provision of these goods and services will in fact control modernity. The people who control the media will control what is presented on it. The people who invest in technology and infrastructure will control what gets built and where. The people in government will regulate all of it.

The contention of this blog is that the Protestant world was by and large the principal shaper of material world of modernity until about the early 1970's, the Catholic world lived in its shadows and was also shaped by it, and it is its collapse that has ushered in the Negative World.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

A Tweet to Ponder

The other day this interesting tweet popped into my feed and I think it encapsulates some of the thoughts I have with regard to the relationship with Protestantism, Christianity and modernity.

It's no mean feat to have achieved a literacy rate approaching 100% and an infant mortality rate roughly a third of a city--with all its institutions--that has been in place that two millennia. It's all the more the impressive considering the it was a wilderness sixty years prior. 

I had a brief look today at the religious history of Toledo, Ohio and from what I could glean it would appears that Catholicism established the first roots there but it was displaced very early on by waves of Protestant immigrants who were hostile to it. Essentially Toledo was a Protestant dominated town.

Toledo Spain was one of the cultural centers of Catholicism and it's interesting to see that nearly two millenia of learning and culture did not confer upon it any advantage on the issue of infant mortality compared to some backwater in the New World. Now the metric of infant mortality is not simply about how many kids live past a certain age, it also is a metric of paternal misery and sorrow. No matter how you cut it, an improved infant mortality rate is a GOOD thing and less dead children usually means happier parents and siblings with all the subsequent second and third order benefits that accrue. Prosperity doesn't just mean wealth, but allows for better nutrition, housing which leads to less disease and misery.

The issue here is why wasn't Toledo, Spain--with its head-start in learning and culture--able to translate that into practical improvements with regard to the day to day life of its citizens.

It's this blog's contention that it was the Catholic/Protestant divide that explains a lot of the performance differential.

Since my blogging has been light over the past year I thought I would just use this post to recap some of the ideas I want to propose. Namely:

1) That the Catholic world while originating modernity was unable to implement it.
2) The Protestant world while initially rejecting modernity was able to harness it and control it till the sixties.
3) The theological changes within Protestantism, especially in the late 19th Century set into train events that would undermine it,  so that by the Mid 20th C, mainline Protestantism--the Protestantism that was embraced by the senior managerial class who were the captains of modernity--had repudiated many of its original moral and theological beliefs.
4) The void left by this collapse was filled by a secular humanism unmoored from any fixed moral principle.
5) Catholicism has been peripheral to this turn of events.
6) The collapse of the faith in all of the West has come about from a "de-gracing" of it.
7) Since Grace is the foundation of Faith, any theological, philosophical,  political or cultural movement that is not calibrated to the Will of the Christian God will fail.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas

I want to wish my readers a very  Merry Christmas.

From Charles Peguy's, Temporal and Eternal:

Originally, in principle, as they were founded, the Secular and the Regular were not distinguished, either in theory or in practice; they were not separated. Their destinies were not distinct. Your City of God was not as yet cut in two, divided into two functions, by a fault, by a longitudinal fissure. Your eternal city was not split in two. The world was the object: that which had to be saved. The Rule, what subsequently be-came the Rule after the specialization, was the matter and the power, the living source. From that source life flowed indistinguishably: invading, inundating and submerging the world; nourishing the age, the times. It was essentially a vital operation. A river of inexhaustible mystical life flowing from that mystical source and nourishing the world. Saving the age. One single movement, always flowing in the same direction, infinitely fertile, from the Rule to the World, at least from what became the Rule. 

Jesus did not come to dominate the world. He came to save it. Quite a different object; an entirely different operation. And he did not come to separate himself from the world. An entirely different method. You see, my friend, if he had wanted to withdraw from the world, to retire from the world, he had simply not to come into the world. It was as simple as that. In that way he could have withdrawn in advance. There was never to be such a chance again. Such a good opportunity: of remaining at the right hand of the Father. As long as he was seated at the Father's side he was withdrawn from the world, in a certain sense, in a way you will never be, infinitely more than you will ever be. Had he wanted to withdraw from the world, if that was his object, it would have been perfectly simple; he had simply not to go into it.

 The centuries had not yet opened, the gate of salvation was not open, the great story had not begun. And if not to be in the world was his object, then he had merely not to start. That short tour was unnecessary. But, on the contrary, he did go into the world, into the centuries, to save the world. He even went twice. Or rather he only went once, but doubly, twice in once. The intention being doubly underlined. First of all, in a first movement, making an infinite movement, an infinite leap as it were, as God he became man. et homo factus est, which you must admit, my friend, is not exactly a way of withdrawing from the world. It was perhaps, on the contrary, a way of entering into it infinitely, in full: to be there, to become part of it by incarnation. In corpus, in carnem. Might it be said that no one ever went into the world so fully?

I"ll leave the rest to Mr Handel:

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Wither Justice

 From the Gospel according to Luke:

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us."

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom."

 He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise"

Not how I intended to return but an article in today's Pillar finally gave me the push.

The above passage of scripture is worth a thought for a few moments. If we truly believe that Christ was the Son of God and voluntarily gave his life for the forgiveness of our sins, you have to come to the conclusion that Christ--in foreseeing his crucifixion--chose to die on the cross. In other words, while He was on the Cross, Christ could have come down from it an any time if he chose, the implication being that He was in full command of His divine powers.

So when the penitent thief said his piece why didn't Christ let him down off the Cross? The guy clearly had expressed repentance of his acts and acknowledged the justice of his punishment. Why wasn't Christ "merciful"to him? It's an interesting thing to ponder since Christ could have miraculously lowered him from the Cross, healed his wounds and sent him on his way. After all, isn't that what Mercy's about?

And yet He didn't.

He let the good thief die next to him.

Now,  I can't explain Christ's motivations for his course of action but I can observe the following facts:

1) Christ retained the power to do pretty much anything he liked while on the Cross.

2) The criminal was repentant and by his own admission was punished justly.

3) Christ assured him a place in paradise.

4) Christ did not in any way avert or mitigate his punishment even though he had the power to do so.

What we see here is that at a bare minimum Christ did not interfere in the Roman judicial process even though the thief was repentant. Now, I wouldn't draw a broad principle from this instance but it does give you something to think about.

I turn now to C.S. Lewis, who in writing about repentance wrote:

If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian.....
Notice what both Lewis and the Good thief are asserting is the rightness of justice in their act of repentance.  It's one of the reasons why people, when they are truly sorry for something, try to make it right.  There is a sense that the natural order needs to be restored at least in some way.

That's why today's Pillar article was profoundly disturbing.

As he is recovering from bronchitis, Pope Francis did not read his prepared speech, but instead handed it over to be read afterwards. 

“Those who work at the Holy See and the Vatican City State certainly do so faithfully and honestly,” the Pope's speech read, “but the lure of corruption is so dangerous that we must be extremely vigilant.”

“I know you dedicate much time to this,” the Pope added, stressing the need to balance “absolute transparency in every action” with “merciful discretion”, since scandals “serve more to fill the pages of the newspapers than to correct behaviour in depth.”[ED]

“in addition to this,” the Pope concluded, “I invite you to help those responsible for the administration of the Holy See's assets to create safeguards that can prevent, ‘upstream’, the insidiousness of corruption from materializing.”

As one of the commentators in the Pillar stated:

I'm struggling to find a generous, positive reading of this directive.

Replace "financial corruption" with "sexual abuse" and then try arguing that this is defensible.


What has happened in the broader Catholic Catholic culture has been the erosion in the value of other virtues such as prudence and justice and the elevation of Mercy to supreme virtue. For Francis, and for many senior clerics, what matters is the conversion of the sinner. No matter what the consequences are for their victim or the institution. In real life with this approach is that you lose a hundred to save one, and even that is not guaranteed. Furthermore, forgiveness without repentance --despite being theologically dodgy--is just a license to sin.

Now I understand that media sensationalism is par for the course when it comes to reporting Church affairs but it was also media sensationalism that bought to light the years of sexual abuse that wasn't being dealt with. The line between merciful discretion and cover-up is one that can be mis-stepped, misused and misinterpreted quite easily. Some institutions need to be inherently transparent due to the nature of their mission. Opacity has not helped the Catholic Church.

Part of the reason I have not been writing as much over the past few years is that I've been trying to understand what has led to the current situation. And I'm of the opinion that Christian faith is seriously compromised by a malignant form of pseudo-Augustinianism that masquerades as orthodoxy and has gained ascendancy. Much like in Arian days, the senior clergy seem to have become infected by this heresy and it is the laity despite all their faults that are more legitimately orthodox.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Service Announcement.

 Although it may appear that way, this blog is not yet dead.

The last few months have been very busy, I've been suffering from writers block and I have been reading a lot.

I'm going on break for the next six weeks.

I hope to have something then.

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Wall

The other day an interesting graphic was posted on twitter which got me thinking about a post I wanted to write for a long time.

Back in 2014, The Pew Research conducted a Religious Landscape Study in the U.S. The study is interesting for its extensive demographic data which, when looked at a bit deeply is quite informative with regard to today's state of affairs.

In particular I'm interested in the data concerning households earning more than one hundred thousand dollars a year. This group or class constitutes the majority of the country's governing class. And by governing, I mean it in its most expansive context.  Within this group are found senior and middle bureaucrats, lawyers, doctors, journalists, businessmen, accountants, virologists, business men, community elders and so on. Much attention is directed towards billionaires and media celebrities but the yeoman's work of day to day governance and organising the country is done by far less notable men. It's the values of this class that set the "tone" of the country.

In theory, Democratic government grant's sovereignty to the people and technically this is true, but in reality the issues that the people get to vote on and how their day to day affairs are run are largely based on the the decisions and values of the governing class.  In a democracy some people are more equal than others.

Firstly, some Basic Demographic data.

What I've decided to do is concentrate on the major sized groups as I'm time limited and this isn't a full blown statistical survey. This covers 92% of the greater than $100K demographic. Interestingly, the impression that I've formed trawling the data is that the remaining 8% tends to cancel each other out on various values metrics. The Buddhists and the Hindus tend to be very permissive with regard to homosexuality and abortion, the Mormons and the Orthodox their opposite.  

What I've tried to do is calculate the absolute number of each religious group in the  >100K class and then determine their proportion in it. For example the Jewish community makes ups 4% of the U.S. population yet it makes up 5% of this class. If there are any errors in my calculations they are unintentional. 

If we take the above minority groups out, then the composition of the governing class in the U.S. can be broken down as follows.

The majority of the U.S. governing class is still nominally Christian. Let that sink in. The U.S. rot is a majority "Christian" affair. Jewish conspiracy theorists can also take note, the governing class of the U.S. is 95% not-Jewish.
The question of religious orthodoxy was quite difficult to determine based upon the questions in the survey but I concentrated on two:

a) Do you oppose/favor gay marriage.
b) Abortion should be legal/illegal in all or most cases.

I took these two questions as proxies for religious orthodoxy.  Orthodoxy being defined as what was considered broad social consensus before the Sixties revolution. I am old enough to remember when the concept of gay marriage was thought to be a laughable joke.  Things have obviously moved on a bit.
With regard to gay marriage the response for the class in 2014 was as follows:

Quite frankly I was shocked when I crunched the numbers and I really didn't think it was so bad. Now Obergefell was in 2015, and it's obvious to me that when the the U.S. Supreme Court decided to recognise gay marriage they were affirming what many of their social peers had already come to accept. The decision was not an impost on the country as much as a recognition that the ruling class had changed its mind. Within the leadership class the moral base and understanding of traditional conceptions of marriage had completely eroded. Also remember that the demographic that was sampled here are the "best and brightest" of their cohort.  These are the people who have the most natural ability and have been afforded the best education. We're not talking about the proletariat. From a Christian perspective, it's truly a disastrous situation.

With regard to the question of Abortion the situation is not much better:

It's pretty much the same and suggests a common causal link.  Interestingly though, in its reversal of Roe v Wade, the members of the Supreme Court would have probably earned a lot of personal and social opprobrium as a result of their decision. Say what you want about Trump, but his nominations made the difference and his crew are pushing against the tide.

Now if we accept that the above two questions as normative for what is considered "sound" Christianity,  then we can say that by 2014 the U.S. leadership class was critically de-Christianised. If you want to understand why Christians are starting to be persecuted, the pie charts above are your answer. The majority of governing apparatus does not share your view of things.  And remember, this was 2014, things have gotten a lot worse since then.

So who exactly is supporting the "slouch towards Gomorrah".

The figures are virtually identical. From what we can see the majority support is still from self-professed Christians.  A few things to note. Support for both abortion and homosexual marriage is roughly proportionate to the religious demographics of the 100k class with the exception of the "Nones", who over represented and the Evangelicals, who are under-represented.

So who is "manning the gates" and not supporting the abandonment of traditional mores.