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Fat America, Online Catholic Education, Rich People’s Money

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 02, 2010

Each Lent I wonder about the morality of deliberately indulging in practices that jeopardize (or deteriorate) your health, including (surprise, surprise) one’s dietary habits. Of the many aspects of the national health debate that are grabbing the headlines, national obesity is one that has at least seemingly taken a backseat.

Studies have shown that the United States is fat. Studies have shown that we have unhealthy consumer attitudes towards food. Studies show that healthcare would cost us less if we all had better diets. Are we morally obligated to assume a healthy lifestyle? I would say yes—as long as that doesn’t mean that I have to give up good beer (as I assume was the case with Chesterton, I too can tolerate a lot of inconvenience if the beer remains high-quality).

In any case, good dietary habits are probably good for our economic, environmental and yes... our moral futures. Let’s not forget how our own health habits have contributed to our national healthcare woes—consumer behavior is indeed a large part of the solution. We need to become a country that treats symptoms of problems by addressing the root cause.

Online Catholic Education

Moving on to another subject: online learning. To the best of my knowledge, no one has yet put together a successful, credible, accredited, four-year, online Catholic college program that is...wait for it...wait for it... faithful to the teachings of the Church. Ideally, such a project would also offer these courses to adults of all ages for continued formation and education. I would like to get this project going (feasibility studies underway). Please send me your comments, questions...and funding. ;-) More on this in a future post.

Market Says: If You Bought Something, Someone Worked to Make It; If You Have Something that Requires Service, Someone Is Servicing It; If You Have A Lot of Money, It Is Working Somewhere

Every week I hear someone (an acquaintance, member of the media, politician, author, etc.) opine that the exorbitantly wealthy have too much money and spend too much of it on luxury items. Catholics are among these “opiners”. This, they say, is proof (in part) that capitalism is a broken model. Generally, the supplied solution is to increase taxes for the rich and super rich, and let the government put it to good use.

Certainly many people in America have improper priorities, both rich and poor alike, so you can expect to see actions taken, across the entire population, that don’t correspond to sound Christian teaching. However, without making any blanket statements on the morality of how capitalism works in the United States, I would like to point out two things.

First, if you bought something, someone worked to make it, and if that item requires service, someone is providing that service. This means that purchasing decisions made by everyone, including the rich, create jobs for hardworking men and women the world over. You may think that purchasing a Rolls-Royce Phantom is irresponsible, and perhaps after a fashion it is (I don’t know that anyone needs a Phantom)...but tell that to the people that are employed by Rolls-Royce/BMW. At the least, the luxury purchases of the rich support industries that keep people employed.

Second point: let’s just say you are Paul Allen—self-made billionaire and one of the richest men in the world (32nd most rich, to be precise). Leaving aside for the moment that you are a well known philanthropist (and leaving aside the debate as to whether or not you support the right things)—do you keep your billions under the world’s largest mattress? No! Your billions are invested in various places—mostly, in companies.

The point is that rich people invariably keep their money working within the market, whether by spending it, investing it, or donating it (if only for the tax write-off). All of this supplies jobs within the global economy. This is not to equate buying a superyacht or investing in the market with charitable action by any means; it is merely to point out that rich people don’t put their money in a vault and swim in it like Scrooge McDuck. Take money away from the rich through socialist redistribution and you are just adding a layer of ineffective government control to perform what that money already is, for the most part, doing—creating new jobs and/or assisting the less fortunate.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: michaeldev - Mar. 03, 2010 11:32 PM ET USA

    Peter I really like the idea of an authentic Catholic online university faithful to the magisterium. Keep up the good work and may God bless you in your feasibility process. Michael

  • Posted by: jbryant_132832 - Mar. 02, 2010 9:47 PM ET USA

    Re: Online Catholic Education - I remember Mother Angelica speaking of this on one of her programs many years ago. She said that one of her goals for EWTN was to offer the best courses from all over world on TV. Perhaps someone should look into that to see if they are still interested.

  • Posted by: tim.moore1408 - Mar. 02, 2010 8:04 PM ET USA

    If anyone would give a serious look at what has happened to a significant part of our population - the black community - since Lyndon B started his war on poverty, and they had an ounce common sense, and read the writings of some of our Founding Fathers as to what government should or should not engage in, the constant harping on the need for government to "solve" our problems would soon come to an end. Sadly, history is seldom taught for any end but an exam.

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Mar. 02, 2010 6:09 PM ET USA

    On your rich comments, well said, Peter. The basic is there - the rich do provide jobs and that is a good. But the quality of those jobs can be quite a different story. I imagine that working at Rolls Royce is fairly decent. But much other work provided by the rich isn't that great. It's repetitive, boring and pushed on by music blared out of speakers so loudly that you can't think. So while they provide jobs, that does not relieve them of the moral responsibility to protect human dignity.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Mar. 02, 2010 2:56 PM ET USA

    Well said Peter. I think that this public anger also highlights the importance of good corporate governance. The image of corporate citizens is important. If the government were to command and control investment dollars, our economy would become reactionary and losses might taper off, no guarantee, but so would innovation. A lot of the public forget that risk and innovation go hand in hand, and that these risks result in the reward of money. There is room for philanthropy in the market, however.

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