I am saddened to learn that Michael Novak has passed away. The American Enterprise Institute, where he was a resident scholar for many years, reports that:
Michael was an AEI scholar for three decades until his retirement in 2010, and remained a close friend of the Institute.
Michael arrived at AEI in 1978. ... And once here, he built a hugely distinguished career as our George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy.
The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982), likely Michael’s most important book, advanced a bold and important thesis: America’s system of democratic capitalism represents a fusion of our political, economic, and moral-cultural systems. No facet can exist apart from the others. This thread ran through Michael’s whole career, including his most recent book, a co-authored work entitled Social JusticeIsn’t What You Think It Is (2015).
Michael Novak loved the Catholic Church and the United States passionately. And with his death at 83, both Church and nation have lost one of their most imaginative and accomplished sons: a groundbreaking theorist in philosophy, social ethics, religious studies, ethnic studies, and economics; a brilliant teacher; a winsome journalist and apologist; a great defender of freedom, as both ambassador and polemicist; a man of striking energy and creativity, some of whose books will be read for a very long time to come, and in multiple languages.
Over a long life Michael Novak traveled from writing speeches for George McGovern to serving as Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, reflecting an intellectual journey from socialism to capitalism. He died Friday at age 83, but in many ways he remained the boy forged in Johnstown, Pennsylvania: a working-class town of steel mills, coal mines and immigrant Slovak families trying to find their way in this new land called America.
Raised as a Roman Catholic, Novak believed as a young man that socialism was the ideal economic arrangement. But he began to notice a flaw: While socialism sounded good in theory, in practice it didn’t work—and non-elites fared the worst.
Capitalism had little high-minded theory, but in practice it literally provided the goods. If ordinary folks did so much better under capitalism, maybe the caricatures—e.g., that it is all based on greed—were wrong. Maybe free markets had their own virtues and were defensible, and even superior to other economic systems on moral grounds.
From this recognition sprang his most important work, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism,” which changed America’s public debate when it was published in 1982. “Democratic capitalism,” he wrote, is “neither the Kingdom of God nor without sin. Yet all other known systems of political economy are worse. Such hope as we have for alleviating poverty and for removing oppressive tyranny—perhaps our last, best hope—lies in this much despised system.”
I only had the privilege of meeting Novak on one occasion, but he had a huge impact on my life. It was reading his work on Catholic social thought as it relates to the corporation that provided the normative foundation for my own work but also provided the impetus and interest in Catholicism that eventually led to my conversion. Indeed, if one had to single out one person who pushed me across the Tiber, it was Novak.
I'll be posting more later about the conference about Delaware corporate law we had here at UCLA this weekend, but as a matter of personal privilege I wanted to note that numerous speakers referred to the failure of North Dakota's effort to attract incorporations away from Delaware.
I'd like to point out that I predicted precisely that outcome:
In this short essay for a forthcoming symposium, I comment on the North Dakota Publicly Traded Corporations Act. North Dakota hopes that the Act will empower it to compete with Delaware in the market for corporate charters. In my view, North Dakota is doomed to failure. If state chartering competition is a race to the bottom, managers will prefer Delaware to North Dakota because the former facilitates the extraction of private rents. If state competition is a race to the top, investors will prefer the director primacy approach taken by Delaware to the shareholder primacy one adopted by North Dakota. Either way, North Dakota loses.
Bainbridge, Stephen M., Why the North Dakota Publicly Traded Corporations Act Will Fail (March, 18 2009). UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 09-07. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1364402 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1364402
To quote the great Will Sonnett, no brag, just fact.
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's class focused on the Liturgy. This week's assignment question is:
What is meant by the term, "Real Presence," with respect to the Eucharist?
As always I am limited to the stated maximum of 200 words.
The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Eucharist, while the bread and wine appear to be bread and wine, Jesus is literally and wholly present—body and blood, soul and divinity—in them. This is a stumbling block for many non-Catholics, who look at the bread and wine and see a rather tasteless cracker and a (usually) bad tasting glass of wine.
But Jesus himself (Luke 22) declared that “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And, again, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you."
That Jesus was not merely speaking of the Last Supper as a unique event is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul wrote: "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord."
If Jesus were not truly present in the bread and wine, why should it matter whether we are free of grave sin when we partake of it? It would be a mere symbol. But because it is not just a symbol, but rather the literal body and blood of Christ, those who are unworthy take him into themselves at grave risk.
Dolan is unquestionably what most people would regard as a “conservative.” His closest friends and advisers are conservatives, he’s by-the-book when it comes to faith and morals, and he’s unabashedly proud of being a “John Paul II bishop.”
In other words, Dolan has strong personal views which some would see as fairly partisan.
However, another defining quality of Dolan is a relentless determination to keep lines of communication open, never to demonize or alienate anyone, and to demonstrate that one can have strong convictions without forever going to war against people who don’t share them. ...
Dolan suggests another America, one in which people who disagree can still be friends, still talk to one another, still recognize one another’s fundamental decency, and where disputes don’t have to end in shoving matches and handcuffs.
A friend on FB posted an interesting hypo. My version: Gun to your head; forced to choose: would you prefer to be ruled by a rich man who uses his wealth to gain great power or a politician who uses his power to gain great wealth? No fighting the hypo. Crassus or Caesar, I suppose would be an historical example.
This Loire Valley Cabernet Franc is a balanced, light-bodied red wine that lacks the depth and richness of a truly great wine but makes a yummy match for a casual bistro-style meal. (In this case, Gordon Ramsay's steak sandwich.)
Deep dark ruby. No sediment thrown to speak of.
Strong nose of blackberry, blueberry, and spices. On the palate, there are modest and soft tannins. Blackberry and blueberry again with a streak of minerals. Not a wine for the cellar but at just $15 per bottle, it's a great choice for near term drinking.
This blend of 88% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sarah, and 4% Carignane from an old vines vineyard in Sonoma made a nice match for stir-fry flank steak with carrots and snow peas.</a>This blend of 88% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sarah, and 4% Carignane from an old vines vineyard in Sonoma made a nice match for stir-fry flank steak with carrots and snow peas.
Deep purple. Almost no sediment. Dark fruit and warm spices on the nose. Well balanced and medium bodied. Drinkable now, but might improve with a couple of years of bottle age.
This year the Range 30 West red wine is 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc. Despite being just 4 years and a couple of months old, it had thrown a ton of sediment. I had not decanted it, but strongly recommend doing so unless you want the last glass to be sludge!
The bouquet suggests cherries, dried Italian herbs, and cassis. The palate follows the nose, suggesting rich red and black fruit with a dash of spice. Nice food wine.
At the height of the drought I never thought I'd say this, but I'm finally getting tired of the rain.
I am addicted to playing Settlers of Catan on my iPad even though the AI cheats. Don't tell my co-authors or the dean.
My book progresses despite #2.
My office currently smells of wet dog.
I think I've settled on giving up red meat for Lent. This is a major penance, as I firmly believe that beef is always the answer when the question is "what shall we have for dinner." Fortunately, I'm taking the pork producers at their word that it's a white meat, so bacon and sausage are still on the menu.
The Porsche Macan has 90% of the driving fun of a 911 and treble the practicality. That's a win.
Among many reasons I crossed the Tiber back in 2001 was the prevalence of praise music in Protestant churches here in Los Angeles. I had an instinctive reaction against worship services that seemed more like rock concerts (not, of course, that I'm against rock concerts, but there is a time and a place). I was thus struck by this passage from John O'Malley's wonderful history of the Council of Trent, Trent: What Happened at the Council:
Embedded in the decree, however, was a sentence exhorting the bishops to “keep out of their churches the kind of music in which a base and suggestive [lascivum et impurum] element is introduced into the organ playing or singing, and similarly all worldly activities, empty and secular conversation, walking about, noises and cries, so that the house of God may truly be called and be seen to be a house of prayer.”
I'm not saying all Protestant churches are like that, of course, but it was in large part a desire for traditional High Church liturgy that sent me to Rome.
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's class focused on the Church. This week's assignment question is:
Explain the link between the Holy Spirit and the Church.
As always I am limited to the stated maximum of 200 words.
I believe that, prior to Pentecost, the Church was merely inchoate. Acts 1-2 tells us that they were gathered together in the upper room (it just occurred to me to wonder of that was the same room as where they held the last Supper?), but they had not really launched on the tasks set out in the Great Commission. Apparently, it was only when the Holy Spirt came upon them at Pentecost that they began preaching to the public rather than praying amongst themselves.
Today, the Holy Spirit sustains, guides, and empowers the Church. As the Catechism explains (para. 736), "By this power of the Spirit, God's children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear 'the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..'"
We encounter the Holy Spirit in the sacraments. The baptism seals us with the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist, it is the Holy Spirit who effects the transubstantiation of the bread and wine. The Holy Spirt convinces us of sin and prompts us to seek Reconciliation.