World Poverty & Wealth

Ever since Pope Francis wrote “Evangelii Gaudium” I have been open to learning about other possible causes, so I decided I would check this book out. Dr. McCloskey’s basic premise is as follows:

Most people harbor beliefs about the origins of the modern economy that historical and economic science have shown to be mistaken. People believe, for example, that imperialism explains European riches. Or they believe that markets and greed arrived recently. Or they believe that “capitalism” required a new class or a new self-consciousness about one’s class (as against a new rhetoric about what an old class did). Or they believe that economic events must be explained “ultimately,” and every single time, by material interests. Or they believe that it was trade unions and government protections that have elevated the working class. None of these is correct, as I hope to persuade you. The correct explanation is ideas.”

She also uses words like “human spirit” and “innovation” to explain how “the average person nowadays earns and consumes almost ten times more goods and services than in 1800” (p. 2).

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Human Dignity and Liberty are from God

The other day I was reading “Bourgeoise Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World” by Dr. McCloskey––a well-respected professor of economics, history, english, and communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I was attracted to the book because it seemed to challenge a worldview I’ve passionately held for the past three years: free market economics is the reason that millions and millions of people have risen out of extreme poverty in the past 30 years or so.

Love is an Act of the Will

Sometimes I struggle with the notion that a perfect, infinite God could love me in spite of all my flaws. Then, I think about how much my parents love me. If my parents love me unconditionally, and they are only capable of expressing love––as opposed to God who is Love––how much more does Love itself love me? Thinking about God’s infinite love overwhelms me.

But what is Love? The closest I have come to understanding Love is by contemplating the Passion of Christ. I know Jesus didn’t feel butterflies as He was on the cross, but I know that He was up there because He loves me, He loves you, He loves all of humanity.

Love is Jesus on the cross.

Why is this Love? Because Love is more than a feeling, it is an act of the will.

God is Love.

St. Catherine of Sienna said, “The incarnation is surely the greatest sign God is crazy in love with us.” 

That is sort of an unconventional way to view God’s love towards us. He is crazy in love with us.

The other day, I was listening to a podcast called “Christ Is The Answer.” Fr. John Ricarrdo said something that stood out to me. He said that the highest form of love is erotic love, and this is the type of love God feels for us. “God has attraction towards us, He wants to be near us,” Fr. Ricarrdo said. Let that sink in, God wants to be near us. (Disclaimer: this erotic love is not sexual, because God is not sexual.)

One need not look far to find proof of God’s erotic love towards humanity: the incarnation and the Eucharist.

Jesus––sinless and perfect––made Himself vulnerable during the incarnation. God not only chose to become man, He chose to become a man by becoming a baby first and depending on Mary and Joseph. Why didn’t He just appear as a strong King one day? Why didn’t He just start at the transfiguration?

The way God chose to come to us is extremely peculiar. The only reason the Nativity seems so natural nowadays is because we grew up with the story. But if you really think about it, God shatters all of our notions regarding power, kingship, worth, and prestige via the incarnation alone.

Our Lady nails it (Luke 1:51-52):

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, 

and has lifted up the lowly. 

God doesn’t owe us anything, yet He chose to become man in order to pay the wage of sin, our sins, which is death (Romans 6:23). But it goes beyond that. Jesus had a choice in doing the will of the Father, and He said Yes. Jesus, who is God Himself, was freely obedient. But what is the point of paying the wage for our sins? We now can live forever with God. It is clearly stated in the prologue of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that the life of a man is to know and love God.

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

So, after accepting these things as truth, it is not too difficult to believe that He would want to physically remain with us until the end of time. How has God chosen to do this? Through the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist.

The Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ––the real presence––remains with us in the Eucharist.

“Remember the marvels the Lord has done.” – Psalm 105

Trusting in God

I am moved by simple questions that do not have simple answers.

My interest in economics turned into passion when I learned that economists were trying to find a way to rid the world of extreme poverty and hunger.

I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of the conversation. I was fascinated to read about how economic freedom had helped people in China and India rise out of extreme poverty within the past 30 years alone.

In a naïve way, I thought that the solution had been found and not enough people knew about the positive impact economic freedom has on people’s lives. While I still believe that economic freedom is a necessary condition for wealth creation in developing countries, I have come to realize that the way to rid the world of poverty and hunger is much more complicated than I had originally thought.

The shift in my way of thinking happened when I began to delve deeper into my Catholic faith, and looked into free market critiques.

Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Guadium” helped me realize that I was so passionate about this topic because ending poverty and hunger promotes human dignity.

It was that simple.

I had previously acknowledged that it was the right thing to do, but I had never really asked why it was the right thing to do.

Not to say that you must understand why good is good in order to promote it, but I think understanding this made a difference in the way I approached economic development.

Instead of fighting for the acceptance of an economic system I had come to embrace, I placed the dignity of the human person at the center of my quest.

It helped make God and the Catholic Church a lot more relevant and essential to my desired career.

The closer I got to God, the more I felt the desire to live out the “joy of the gospel.” To me, this meant caring for my brothers and sisters by becoming an economist and devoting my life to ending unnecessary suffering in developing countries. In the back of my mind, this question always lingered: How can institutions we know to be effective for wealth creation be implemented and effective in developing countries?

From that point on, my attraction to God and the Catholic Church grew exponentially and many things began to be stirred up in me during my first year of my Ph.D. in Economics at George Mason University.

I found myself uninterested in economics once the human component was taken out. I told myself that I had to understand the theories in order to be able to one day dedicate my life to the things I ultimately cared about. I thought that my interest in my classes would get better as I learned to discipline myself.

However, I noticed that my interest only dwindled as time went on and it made it difficult for me to study. I did not have time to think about why I felt unmotivated, so I just kept on forcing myself to try.

Upon receiving my spring grades, I felt as if though my dreams had been crushed. How could I have failed my classes? Did I do that much worse than my peers? I knew I was struggling but so were people in my study group. I could not understand why God would place a strong desire in my heart to dedicate my life to studying economic development, yet at the same time I could lack the motivation to study for my classes. I was terminated from the program.

I found myself confused, yet willing to submit myself to God’s will. After much prayer, self-reflection, and many conversations, I came across the Catholic University of America’s IEDP. I read about how the newly established School of Business and Economics at CUA would be “distinctively Catholic.” The program not only aims to examine and evaluate different ways to approach developmental economics, but the human person is the center of the focus.

It all began to make sense. Grace builds on nature. God knew that I would take a risk to come close to 2,000 miles away from home to pursue a Ph.D., something I have wanted for many many years. But he knew I would be very reluctant to join a program that was newly established. Note, I also had to go to GMU to meet Aldo, who is the love of my life.

We can’t know what God is, only what God is not (in his essence). And God is not us.

God allows us to fail so we can die to our old self, our old ambitions… so he can show us what will truly make us happy.

PP sells baby parts for profit?

On July 14, 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a video that, for many, revealed the fact that Planned Parenthood is harvesting aborted baby body parts for medical research. This video is a part of the “Human Capital” series, which is a project of the Center for Medical Progress.
The Human Capital project is a 30-month-long investigative journalism study by The Center for Medical Progress, documenting how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies. Citizen journalists at CMP spent two-and-a-half years logging thousands of research hours to painstakingly gather hundreds of hours of undercover footage, dozens of eye-witness testimonies, and nearly two hundred pages of primary source documents. This information will continue to be made available to the public at this site.
The video consists of investigators posing as fetal tissue procurement company employees having a conversation about the aforementioned process over dinner with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services. Nucatola describes how certain body parts and organs are harvested:
“So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get [the organs] all intact.”
How is this not awful to hear? She is describing the crushing of a defenseless baby. Many people––including pro-choice––are bothered that she is eating and casually describing this process. I can sympathize with that; however, I am not shocked. In fact, I expect people who support abortion to be nonchalant about all of this. In order for one to partake or condone abortion in general, one probably falsely thinks it is not evil. Why should Nucatola speak with compassion? I mean, how could she? There is nothing compassionate about what she is describing.
In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, David Daleiden, leader of the undercover investigation, stated that he firmly believes Planned Parenthood is in the business of illegal sale of baby parts. As of now, the video has led to congressional and state (Texas and Louisiana) investigation of Planned Parenthood.
What I don’t understand, though, is how Planned Parenthood is somehow exonerated from the accusation the CMP has made against them––that they profit from the selling of baby parts. Somehow, when Nucatola says, “They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this,’ this means that she is denying they profit. 2:22 minutes.
At 12:24 mins, when asked what price range would be given to biotech firms in order not to not raise questions, Nucatola replies, “You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100 [per specimen], depending on the facility and what’s involved.”
Even though the edited video provides the time of the unedited video at the bottom of the video––making cross reference of the footage doable––people are accusing the Center for Medical Progress of being fake and disingenuous.
At 1:16 minutes, the video shows the actual order form used to order baby parts from Stem Express.
In the edited video, the following legislation is cited:
  • Buying or selling human body parts is a federal felony. (42 U.S. Code 274e)
  • The commercial trafficking of body parts from an aborted baby is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or fine of up to $500,000. (42 U.S. Code 289g-2)
In the United States, there are both federal and state laws prohibiting the selling of organs––adult, teen, child and baby. This explains why Planned Parenthood has denied that they sell and make a profit from harvesting baby parts.
It is a relief to see that Planned Parenthood would at least purportedly be ashamed of profiting from the selling of baby parts. What is even better is that there seemed to be a general disgust of the mere donating of baby parts. In a growing relativist moral society, this is surprising. A much welcomed surprise.
But how does one explain this away?
“Partial-birth abortion. It’s not a medical term, it doesn’t exist in reality. … [N]umber 1, the Federal Abortion Ban is a law, and laws are up to interpretation. So there are people who interpret it as intent. So if I say on Day 1 I do not intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn’t matter. Because I didn’t intend to do this on Day 1 so I’m complying with the law..”
I was, however, offended by some who proposed that donating baby parts should be encouraged because it is somehow the morally superior thing to do.
Even if you’re personally opposed to abortion—even if you think it should be 100 percent illegal—as long as abortion is legal and happening, isn’t it better that some good might come out of it?
Huh? By that logic, she should also encourage “El Chapo” Guzman––Mexican drug lord who has mutilated and beheaded countless innocent people––to donate the body parts and organs of the people he has murdered for medical research so that “some good” can come from it. I won’t apologize for my analogy. Clearly if a person believes––accepts something to be true––abortion is murder, he or she will not rationally condone it on any level.
Her statement has a creepy eugenicist feel to it, too, which is fitting since Planned Parenthood was founded by a eugenicist and racist named Margret Sanger. Yes, I realize that Sanger supporters says pro-lifers are blowing certain quotes out of proportion. But how does one explain away her self-selection into the American Eugenics Society? Or quotes like these: “Our … campaign for Birth Control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal with the final aims of Eugenics”? (Katz, E. & Engelman, P., 2002). Seriously?
Margaret Sanger, quoted in Katz, Esther; Engelman, Peter (2002). The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. p. 319. ISBN 978-0-252-02737-6. Our … campaign for Birth Control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal with the final aims of Eugenics
I hate to make presumptions about people I do not know, but I feel pretty confident about this one so I am going to say it. I am willing to bet that if selling organs was not illegal, Planned Parenthood and its advocates would encourage the selling of baby parts.
Over the past few days, I’ve been attentive to Planned Parenthood defenders because I was honestly curious to see how they were going to defend this “revelation.”
Many people were claiming that the motive of the video was to make the “outrageous claim” that Planned Parenthood was profiting from donating organs. Legally, this is a problem because there are federal and state laws banning the selling of body organs. Period.
Planned Parenthood’s response https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZUjU4e4fUI
was deceptive, but on the same day they released the full version of the video.
Two days later
I don’t understand how that comes off as suspicious. Clearly, they had to edit out some parts of the video since the full footage was almost three hours. Both Federal and State laws prohibit the selling of organs. Two states are currently investigating Planned Parenthood. What’s wrong with that? If they are not selling baby parts, then Planned Parenthood should be delighted.
Novagenics Laboratory it is legal to donate body parts but not legal to sell them (adult or fetal). Planned Parenthood does sell the baby parts.
Whether Planned Parenthood is profiting from this or breaking even, the fact they are selling baby parts at all is horrifying.
Abortion in itself is wrong. I find it interesting that many people whom I have discussed the abortion issue are bothered by it at some level but cannot bring themselves to deny women “the choice” to keep or abort the baby.
My problem with Planned Parenthood is not simply that they sell baby parts from aborted babies and profit (excuse me, “break even”) from it; my problem is that Planned Parenthood exists.
In 2014 alone, Planned Parenthood performed 300,000 abortions, which is half of the population of El Paso, Texas (the city I grew up in).
I’ve been trying to think of an analogy that could help me convey why the video released by  is a problem. Then I came across an article about how El Chapo Guzman is mutilating and beheading people in Mexico. This is clearly wrong, meaning I don’t know of many people that would disagree. I would have a problem if El Chapo Guzman started selling the body parts of the people he mutilated and beheaded in order to bring at least “some good” from it (even if the families of the victims signed a consent form). There are certain things that are just wrong regardless of what the culture says about it.
I realize some people will be offended by my analogy, but the killing and selling of body parts of the most innocent in our society is much more offensive.

Suffering

God, why does mankind suffer? Why are we broken?

Lord, only you know why anything is.

But could it be that human suffering is a form of united us humans with You, our Creator? When a terrible occurrence takes place, the good part of humanity pours out. Strangers help strangers simply out of instinct. It causes humans pain to see human suffering. But why does human suffering affect us if it doesn’t have to? It’s because we are created in Your image, my Lord.

The Greatest Lover

How grand is your Love, Holy God?

How mighty is Your Justice, Holy Immortal One?

How endless is your Mercy, Holy Mighty One?

Lord, today I asked You for the grace to open my heart and discern my purpose. I sat in a room filled with your chosen souls at my very fist Martha Dinner. What stood out to me the most was that every single person in that room was at one point pursued by the greatest lover of all time: You.

You are a persistent gentleman, my Lord. You invite us to a life of love and communion. If, however, Your call frightens us, You step aside because You respect the free will you granted us. Could it be that we are not capable of accepting such awesome and perfect love? Only You know when we are ready to accept Your calling, O Lord.

I believe C.S. Lewis said it perfectly:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

You are the greatest mystery, O Lord.

You are the greatest poet, O God.

You are the greatest artist, O Creator.

You are the greatest existence, O Mighty One.

The list goes on.

You created us in your image, God, so help me be the person You want me to be.

Fill me with the graces I need to live out a life that is pleasing to You.

Lord, help me understand your Justice and Mercy. Does one begin where the other ends? Or does your Mercy triumph all in the end?

Jesus, You told us to take courage because You have conquered the world (John 16:33). But how much of our salvation depends on our repentance of heart? Lord, help me understand these things to the best of my ability. Give me wisdom, my God.

But above all, fill my soul with humility.

Humility

Humility- Readings: Mt 15: 21 – 28 ? Humility is a source to learn life’s valuable things and it is God’s way of teaching His loved ones. ‘And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna,…

Catholicism at odds with libertarianism?

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of Pope Francis’ top advisors, said that today’s free market is “a new idol.” The cardinal brings up a valid observation because the free market has become a modern-day idol for many people. In fact, I had to ask myself whether I idolized the free market to an unhealthy extent after reading Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelli Gaudium. It is an undeniable truth that all the good that has been accomplished through the free market is by the grace of God. Man should never place his or her hopes in the free market alone.

That being said, the market is not a system. It is the natural order of things when left to voluntary exchanges between individuals. Therefore, I do not really understand how someone can be against the natural order of things, especially if he or she believes in God. What better system can we possibly come up with ourselves? This is an argument Frederic Bastiat, a French political economist from the 19th Century, elaborated on in his magnum opus entitled Economic Harmonies.

I am not trying to claim that the cardinal is saying he knows of a better system. My point is to make it clear that the free market is not a system put together by any individual or group of individuals. It is just freedom for all individuals to interact. The free market is not to blame for the poor being poor. Is anyone to blame? Some people are rich and some are poor. Some individuals are charitable and others are not. So how does the cardinal propose we reconcile this? Force cannot be the solution for not even God forces us to do His will.

I do agree with the cardinal regarding his point that something needs to be done right now to help the poor. Jesus teaches us that we must love one another as He loves us. Would Jesus let us starve? No. Should we let others starve? No. But it happens, so who is to blame? Does this mean that we are not going to heaven? I do not feel that it works that way. Jesus makes it clear in various parables that we are given different talents. It is our job to do everything we can with those gifts God bestowed. Guess what? The free market allows people to focus on what they are good at to maximize their contribution to society.

I am no good at manual labor. This is quite clear to me. Thank God, I was accepted into grad school because now I can dedicate myself to what God wants me to dedicate myself to––learning and teaching. Imagine if I had to make my own clothes, shoes, grow my own plants, and raise my own animals to eat so that I can survive on a daily basis? Not only would I suffer (and offer it up to God), but doing what I feel God is calling me to do would be literally impossible. Although all things are possible through God, I feel that He purposefully placed me in the United States for a reason. People seem to take for granted the many benefits of the free market. Like the fact that we can survive without exerting as much effort as people before us. Free trade is pretty cool, guys.

Since I live in the U.S., I can sit here and write my blog instead. Later, I can go visit Jesus at the Blessed Sacrament and pray for my faith and for the conversion of souls. Then after that I can go visit my 2 year old niece and play with her. But I would have less time, if any, to do all these things if it weren’t for the fact that I live in a country that embraced the free market over 100 years ago. Should I feel guilty that I am so happy and others are so unhappy ? No, because God placed me here and by the grace of God, I have an idea on how He wants me to turn my blessings into something good for the world.

The real question is, though, how can the poorest of the poor get to this level of joy and freedom?

Libertarianism or classical liberalism, as I have come to understand it, promotes autonomy and freedom for the individual as granted by our Creator. How can a “philosophy” that promotes this truth be at odds with the Catholic Church? Not only does promoting human freedom make peoples lives better, it acknowledges human dignity. We possess the ability to do good for ourselves and others if only we choose to turn to God. But who are we to take away what God granted to all his children, even if some choose not to turn to God?

It is interesting that a person can lack trust in individuals because he or she is imperfect, yet that same person can place relatively more trust in the government, which is simply a collection of individuals. Concentrated power absent of God––government–– is extremely dangerous for many reasons. The most obvious reason, pointed out by Catholic historian, Lord Acton, is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is also observed by Frederic Bastiat in Economic Harmonies:

“For if you entrust men with arbitrary power, you must first prove that these men are molded of a different clay from the rest of us; that they, unlike us, will never be moved by the inevitable principle of self-interest; and that when they are placed in a situation where there can be no possible restraint upon them or any resistance to them, their minds will be exempt from error, their hands from greed, and their hearts from covetousness.”

Libertarians, whether they believe in God or not, acknowledge the danger of concentrated power. The free market is the antithesis of concentrated power! Individuals have the power to make their own choices. These choices will lead to failure or success but the damage will be minimal because the market corrects “failures” on its own. If a person is selling a product that is of no good, no one will purchase it. So then that person will fail and move on the the next invention. Is this bad? Of course not. This helps eliminate irrelevant junk and allows entrepreneurs to focus on what society needs. Say what you want about Apple, but it is a company that knows how to make my life easier. Sure some people let technology consume their lives and hinder their human interaction, but not all do. My iPhone has helped me enhance my spiritual growth. I have all these cool, neat apps on my phone that grant me instant access to the daily scriptures, devotions, and other things I greatly value.

I truly believe that Pope Francis and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga are referring to cronyism when they refer to the free market. What is cronyism? It is when businessmen and politicians work together. Businessmen can bribe politicians to get special privileges, or politicians can blackmail businessmen to pay them money so that they won’t vote for legislation that will hurt their business. It goes both ways. Here is a great video that goes into depth. Why do I think they believe free markets are interchangeable with cronyism? Because the Pope is from Argentina, a country that has very little economic freedom, therefore, a lot of cronyism.

So what is the free market? To me, the free market means that there is a lot of economic freedom. The Freedom of the World 2013 Annual Report, states that economic freedom exists where individuals have the autonomy to make personal choices, voluntary exchanges, enter and compete in markets, as well as a rule of law that protects life and property from “aggression” by others. Sounds pretty reasonable. I think the problem is that people do not think of these things when they think of free markets.

 The EFW index collected data from 152 countries and examined the size of government, security of property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation. The study found that “nations that are economically free out-perform non-free nations in indicators of well-being,” specifically having higher GDP, higher life expectancy, greater political and civil liberties, and the poor are much better off. So if the poor are better off in areas where there is more economic freedom, shouldn’t we be promoting free markets? I think so, which is one of the many reason I do so.

The truth of the matter is that poverty has been reduced drastically since the implementation of free markets, which involves free trade. An article by The Economist puts it concisely, free markets have been a major reason for extreme poverty declining by 1 billion in a span of 20 years alone (1990-2010). That is more than has ever been accomplished in such a time span, by far! So if the point is to eliminate poverty––which some argue can be done in the foreseeable future––why such hostility towards the free market, which has proven most successful towards achieving this end?

One must also understand that we cannot wipe away poverty by the click of a button. Those who are hostile or even skeptical towards free markets seem to be calling for such a magical button indirectly. Free markets have helped bring people out of extreme poverty, yet critics still disapprove because some people are still in extreme poverty; or they disapprove the working conditions that people had to endure to make a better life for themselves. To demand a flawless “method” for reducing poverty is unrealistic. Of course we should care for those in extreme poverty, but what better way to do it than by using giving people freedom and opportunity to rise out of poverty? In China alone, 300 million people––the entire population of the U.S.––have risen out of extreme poverty through free trade/free market.

Also, what about voluntary charity? I humbly and innocently ask, shouldn’t the Catholic Church see this as an opportunity to call the world to help those in most need? If parts of the world are getting wealthier, then doesn’t that free up their time and disposable income for charity? Not everyone will help but there will be more people given that more people are able to. The Pope has already been speaking to this, but I think this is essential: spiritual growth and communion with God. For if we know our purpose and carry it out, by the grace of God, we will bring good to the world.

God wants all his children to be happy, so if we do our part, shouldn’t that lead to God’s divine plan for humanity? I may sound naive to many Catholics, but I guess that’s just faith.

Also, prayer. I never understood the power of prayer until I got in the habit of daily prayer and conversation with God. Prayer is our greatest human weapon against evil.