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Framing the Argument

February 12, 2019 (355 words)

Despite my recently noted reservations about the methodology used for his economic prognosticating, there is an initiative American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks is currently promoting that has my unequivocal support.

He wants liberals and conservatives to stop hating on each other, and acknowledge they both have the same goal in mind: a more equitable and humane society.

In pursuit of this laudable objective, disagreements are bound to happen, and need not disturb what can be a fundamentally cordial relationship between opposing camps. Each side should be prepared to engage in a spirited exchange of ideas, after which – according to Mr. Brooks – the best ones will naturally win out.

I admire Brooks his idealism on this point. I only wish he would expand his intellectual horizon beyond the shop-worn liberal/conservative, either/or dialectic. There is a worldview that promotes human dignity and human flourishing far better than the one he has hitched his professional wagon to.

What exists above and beyond the familiar dialectic, and what might be called a “third way,” is none other than Catholic anthropology. Though it’s been around for some two thousand years it suffered a precipitous decline in popularity starting five hundred years ago, and has subsequently gotten buried under a mountain of modern rubble.

But it’s still there, waiting to be dusted off and tapped into, with the benefit of countless spot-on additions to the teaching, generated by a series of marvelously astute supreme pontiffs over just these last 125 years.

Together this body of work amounts to the best kept secret, a kind of “final frontier” if you will, of political thought and social-planning, even among Catholics.

Take a practicing Catholic like Arthur Brooks, for instance – an intelligent man, an engaging speaker, and an entertaining writer – who seems to lack even a passing familiarity with the subject.

He’s already there in the building every Sunday, for goodness sake. To rectify the situation all he need do, metaphorically speaking, is pull some different books down off the shelves and start reading.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
February 12, 2019

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