Bishop Peter A. Libasci, Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire took to the pages of the Concord Monitor yesterday to appeal to Governor Hassan and the NH State legislatures “better nature” on the matter of the budget. The opening paragraph frames the context. It is again time for a new state budget. How will we measure whether they have succeeded in their work?
The overall thrust of ‘how’ turns to our shared journey and the obligation to care for each other and those most in need. There is the obligation to family members, of citizens to their community, the need to apply justice, prudence, and sacrifice, and the general will to support public and private charities.
These are all ideas fundamental to Christianity and our personal responsibility as individuals of a community to emulate the life of Christ in our daily lives–something a Catholic Bishop has every right to profess. But suggesting that temporal budget planning should begin there? It almost sounds as if Bishop Libasci is preaching collective salvation.
I do not support the socialist construct of collective salvation, and perhaps that was not the message the Bishop was trying to send, but we can still find “common ground.” The Legislature and the governor have an important role to play. They can use the budget, the budget process, and the legislative session, to help those most in need. They can do as much as possible to allow citizens to make these choices themselves with as little government interference as possible.
Legislators should remove regulations that disincentive private giving. They need to cut state spending that deprives citizens of hard-earned dollars that those citizens could then choose to donate to charities.
I do not, however, believe that this was Bishop Libasci’s intent, otherwise he could have just come out and said that.
While he would certainly encourage my model of giving and does, his goal here hints at hoping the legislature can find and fund a larger role for government in charity. He frames that point by referring to the NH State Constitution.
“…the founding fathers said in Part 2, Article 83 of the New Hampshire State Constitution that it is the duty of the governor and the Legislature ‘to inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence…public and private charity…and generous sentiments among the people.”
His desire to measure budgetary “success” appears linked inexorably to this “duty.” A statutory obligation to fund charity. But that is not what I see in Article 83. Inculcate means to impress, educate, instill. To create a desire to act among the people, not to act for the people.
Article 83, as quoted, to my ear, request that those chosen to lead the temporal affairs of the state… educate and impress upon the citizenry “the principles of humanity and general benevolence.” This is not a call to legislative action. There is no mandate here for government enforced tithing. Legislators are not being asked to create a confiscatory tax structure so that they might by force use the labor of others to exercise legislative benevolence. If they were, what could stop them from abusing this power to finance any conceivable good–deemed good by them or for them–in the name of public charity?
Allow me to inculcate the principles of legal plunder with the aid of Frederic Bastiat…
“..law is force, and need I say how far it is a violent and absurd enterprise to introduce force in these matters?
As the result of its systems and of its efforts, it would seem that socialism, not withstanding all its self-complacency, can scarcely help perceiving the monster of legal plunder. But what does it do? It disguises it cleverly from others, and even from itself, under seductive names of fraternity, organization, association. And because we do not ask so much at the hands of law, because we only ask it for justice, it alleges that we reject fraternity, solidarity, organization, and association; and they brand us with the name of individualists. We can assure them that what we repudiate is not natural organization but forced organization.
It is not free association, but the forms of association that they would impose upon us.
It is not spontaneous fraternity, but legal fraternity.
It is not providential solidarity, but artificial solidarity, which is only unjust displacement of responsibility.
The true measure of budgetary success will not be defined by the largess of a majority of a fraction of one-percent of the state population. It can only be defined by that same majority not just inculcating “the principles of humanity and general benevolence” among the people, but that they lead by example; by doing everything possible to get the government out of the business of plundering the pockets of its citizens so that those citizens might form free associations amongst themselves to satisfy their own sentiments. The governor and the legislators should encourage these free associations. Participate in them if they are able. Donate their own time and money to charities whose mission aligns with their individual worldview. But they should not use the force of government to fund them with other people’s money.
Objections to the public funding of Planned Parenthood are irrelevant to the question of whether or not any member of the public feels they provide a necessary service. I think McDonald’s provides a necessary service. People need to eat. But I would never demand you eat there or require you to finance my use of their products and services. It is the arrogance of a government that uses force, disregarding the objections of those whose money they spend on the venture, to fund Planned Parenthood.
The employer mandate to fund contraception includes medications capable of aborting a pre-born child and is the result of legislators using the force of law to spend other people’s money to satisfy their sentiments. These are sentiments they have gone to court to defend. They continue to fight for the power to make people pay for abortifacients regardless of the objections of those like Bishop Libasci or myself who have every right to oppose such arbitrary uses of force.
To add insult to injury, the government’s desire to defend its act of plunder stems from forcing conscientious objectors to expend money on legal challenges to stop them. Between the two sides, hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted on an act to prevent plunder that should never have happened; that those financing this sentiment with our dollars promised us would not happen. But it did. It happened because they lied to us about their sentiments, even bought off the votes needed in congress to create the plunder which could only then be prevented or overturned through the courts.
The Governor of New Hampshire, most if not all of the Democrat caucus, support and defend public funding of Planned Parenthood and the power of the state to force other people to pay for abortion. It is, by all accounts, a favorite ‘charity’ that they claim the state is obligated to fund.
They presume to have that power because we have too often deferred to them responsibilities (most frequently by our own indifference to the risks) that should belong to us, or–in the case of Bishop Libasci’s editorial– that invite them across thresholds only to find they have become permanent house guests with armed guards who have no intention of ever leaving.
Government is always looking for an excuse to grow, but it can never grow without something else shrinking. As Skip is fond of pointing out, the larger the government the smaller the citizen. So too the larger the government, the less room there is for private charity.
Deliberately or not, regardless of any good intentions, when Bishop Libasci suggests that we measure the success of the budget based on its relationship to “those in need,” he has empowered the Queen and her courtiers with a mandate to further define charity for us and to then fund it by force without regard to the wishes of those made to pay.
This is not a call to charity, it is an invitation to plunder.