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ICYMI: Kasich discusses Michael Novak on Hannity Show

ICYMI: Kasich discusses Michael Novak on Hannity Show

JohnKasich

 

Presidential Candidate and Governor of Ohio John Kasich appeared on the FoxNews "Hannity" show on April 11, 2016. During the discussion, Kasich highlighted Michael Novak:

 

KASICH: No, no, no. But people say that. Look, redistribution of wealth is just dead wrong. The free enterprise system works. But the quote -- a great Catholic theologian, Michael Novak, a free enterprise system that's not underlaid by a decent set of values is bankrupt. That's not liberal.  That's common sense. It's conservative and it's right!

*****

Full transcript of the show may be found on the FoxNews website here.

Hannity

Gov. John Kasich: The spirit of our country rests in us

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 11, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
*
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to "Hannity," and we're coming to you live from Saratoga Springs. We're in beautiful upstate New York. It is just eight -- hello, hi, welcome.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: In eight days, voters from this state will head to the polls and help decide who they want to be the 2016 presidential nominee, 95 Republican delegates up for grabs. And tonight, GOP presidential candidate -- he's the governor of the great state of Ohio, our good friend -- for the entire hour. John Kasich is with us. How are you?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

 HANNITY: How are you?

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good.

HANNITY: Standing room only. There's like a million people standing behind there.

KASICH: Oh, yes. I didn't even see them.

HANNITY: It's all around the room.

KASICH: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: I saw you had 4,000 people in Rochester. Something happening that maybe we're not aware of?

KASICH: Well, for the first time in about the last month, they actually know my name is John Kasich and not governor of Ohio because we didn't get any attention before, did we? But now we're getting it and people are hearing the message and they're showing up!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: All right.

KASICH: You know what, Sean? Honestly, it is really amazing. It's an amazing experience to go through this. And I wasn't going to tell this story, but maybe I will. I was in Greece, New York. And people were waiting outside in line.

I mean, I can't believe it, right? It's by the grace of God that I've been given a chance to do these things. And there was a group of disabled folks, and they were screaming at me and disrupting. And the people started getting upset, and I said, Don't get upset. These folks have lived in the shadows for, you know, 100 years, and they need attention. And they screamed a little bit more, and then the whole thing ended.

And somebody on my staff said, They're still in the gym. So I went in to see them. There were three of them, and they were -- they were very severely disabled. And they said, We came at 7:00 in the morning. They stuck us in the back. And I said, Well, look, you know, I'm helping you because, frankly, the Lord wants me to help you.

And I said, And we'll take a picture, and I'm going to have my head of the whole operation in Ohio call you to see if there's some other things we can be doing because it's been a high priority.

And then as I was leaving, this young lady, young girl, she was 17. I didn't know how old she was. She said, Could I take a picture with you?  and I said, yes. Yes, you can take a picture. And she started shaking and crying.

HANNITY: You scare some people. No, I'm kidding.

KASICH: No, I mean, this is really amazing. And she -- I said to her, What's wrong, young lady? She said, I never thought that I would have a chance to meet you.

And I put my arm around her shoulder, and I said, Listen, so much of this is about celebrity in life. You don't really know me. You see me maybe on television, and you get excited. But you are what's important, what's inside of you, not some celebrity or somebody who you think is important.  It's you.

And then I felt so inadequate because there's people here tonight who have problems, people here who are hurting, people who are here, Sean, they just want somebody to care about them. And I always feel so inadequate when I see a group like this, and I kind of, like, What can I do, you know? What is it that I could personally do to just make everybody feel a little bit better?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: You got a fan over there.

KASICH: No, but -- you and I -- Sean and I have known each other for a very long time, and Sean's been -- you know, he's had groups like this all over the country. I've seen it happen. And Sean, you and I -- you know my dad carried mail. Your dad was a police officer.

HANNITY: He was a probation officer.

KASICH: Probation officer.

HANNITY: I lived in probation my whole life, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KASICH: Well, you know, you look at them, and they just want to believe that life can be better, that their kids can do well, that they're going to get a fair shake. And it's amazing that we have a chance to be able to in some ways...

HANNITY: Oh, I agree.

KASICH: ... help you and help each other, which is really what matters.  Like I told that young lady, young girl, the spirit of the country rests in us, not in a politician, not in a celebrity. It rests in our families, our neighborhoods and our communities!

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: You know, before you came out, you know, I tell my stupid jokes a little bit, but I do say one serious thing before I talk -- before we do these interviews to every audience. I've asked you this question before.

When you think of the magnitude of the numbers, you know, 95 million Americans out of the labor force, 50 million in poverty, 46 million on food stamps, real Americans, real families, our friends, our neighbors, really suffering. And to add one point. Government's hurting them! Government's not helping them.

And we now have doubled our debt. We now have $120 trillion in unfunded liabilities. And I worry if America's in such a decline if we can reverse it. Am I too negative?

KASICH: Yes, I think we can reverse it. But here's the thing, Sean. If you go to a doctor and you say, How can we have a healthy economy, the doctor will say, Do not crush small business with regulations because you will put them out of business and people will lose their jobs, OK? Number one.

Make sure you always cut taxes for people and for companies so they can employ more people. And thirdly, let's have some common sense and let's balance a budget. So you now go to the doctor...

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Yes.

KASICH: Those are the three things. So you go to the doctor and you say - - and the doctor says -- I say, Well, I'm not feeling very well. He says, Well, what are you doing? I said, Well, we are regulating businesses out of existence. We're raising taxes on everything that is happening in this country. And finally, we've blown up the budget. Wonder why you're not feeling well.

There is a formula that works. I did it in Washington, as you know. I've done it in Ohio, put a team together, throw out all the goofy politics, focus on the problem and go fix it! That's all you got to do!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: When you -- you did leave a, what, $5 trillion (ph) surplus.  What was the deficit that you conquered because...

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: It was real -- I don't -- I don't have that number in front of me, but it was, you know, giant. We paid down a half a trillion of the national debt.

HANNITY: National. All right, here...

KASICH: And we had four years of a balanced budget. But you know what happened? And this is the thing that burns you up. I left Washington, we had a projected $5 trillion surplus. It would have provided private accounts for young people, in addition to Social Security. And it was the House Republicans, the Senate Republicans and the president spent it, and the Republican president spent it all.

The difference between Republicans and Democrats -- Democrats love to spend. So do Republicans. Republicans just feel guilty when they do it.

HANNITY: Yes.

KASICH: And that's why -- that's why -- you have to, Sean -- you've got to have somebody that stands in the breech and says, We got to remember all the people, not the special interests...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: ... angry at Republicans? John Boehner was speaker. He had the power of the purse. I've read the Constitution. And they wouldn't use it to balance the budget, and the debt went up 4-point-some-odd trillions dollars with a Republican speaker and a Republican House. They didn't keep their promise. They didn't stop or -- ObamaCare or defund it. And then they went ahead with the executive amnesty and they ended up funding that when they ran in 2014 and said they wouldn't.

KASICH: Well, I don't think that anybody should make a promise when they run for office that they don't legitimately think they can keep. And that's what happens all the time.

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: You know what? A lot of people in this country, when they saw me in the debates, I would talk about my record in Washington, my record in Ohio. And people would say, Why do you keep talking about that? I'll tell you why. Today, if a politician's lips are moving, we believe they're lying. So the reason why I talk about what I've done is if I tell you I have done it before, then I have credibility to tell you what I'm going to do because of this.

You know, I'm a citizen, too. People want my vote. When they come to see me, they say, Oh, I want to be this, I want to be that. I said, What have you done? I don't want to hear about these great things you're going to do. How can I believe you? What have you done in your life that convinces me what you tell me is true? And so that's why I talk about it.

I went to just say this to everybody here. Look, I know we're worried about the security of our job. I know we're worried our kids got education, they're still living at home. I know -- I understand all of that.

This can all be fixed if we work as Americans, if we're able to enact conservative ideas and bring the country together. Sean, look, when we balanced the budget, when I left Washington, you know, with Senator Domenici, we had enormous job growth, wage growth, no discussion on income equality. And bet you that Hillary Clinton will be talking about the Clinton economy when she runs this fall, and the only reason why we got to a balanced budget is because the Republicans, House and Senate -- we had guts and we acted as public servants and not as politicians!

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Really important.

KASICH: Am I right?

HANNITY: Let me -- I actually was there -- Newt Gingrich was the speaker.  And I was there emceeing his event the night he became speaker of House of the House. And you're right because President Clinton at the time said, Oh, we'll balance it in seven, eight years, between seven and nine, between eight and ten...

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: ... numbers.

HANNITY: And then you insisted with Pete Domenici on numbers, and we did get to a balanced budget.

You're giving a speech tomorrow. Two paths -- give us a preview.

KASICH: Well, look, you can -- I've learned this when I was actually in New Hampshire. I can come in here and talk about all of our problems and I can drive them right into the ditch or -- and I can make them angry. I can get them to be divided, polarized. And I can turn anger into things that border hate.

Or I can come in here and acknowledge all these problems, but I can tell you how we can fix it. Now, look, you just asked a question. Is America in decline? Are you kidding me? Our economy is just -- you know, by far the strongest in the world. We're the center of innovation. We're the center of invention. What -- medicine -- if you take a look at life expectancy, transportation -- we are just -- we just are dominating the world!

Now, we're drifting. We can fix it. And we don't want to be saying America's worst (sic) days are behind us. Look, you do a good job when you're realistic, not pie in the sky, and you can convince people that if we can shed the nonsense, of course we can climb out of this. We've had a lot worse times than what we have right now.

HANNITY: The problem from my vantage point is I don't see the political will to get it done. I'll give you one example.

KASICH: I agree with that.

HANNITY: For example, we have illegal immigration. Republicans have said they're going to build a fence. Democrats -- they don't want a fence because they want a constituency. Republicans want cheep labor, and there's no fence built which means not only can people come here that want a better life and jobs, but so can ISIS. They have failed the American people on simple basic tasks!

KASICH: Well, look...

HANNITY: You didn't give us a preview of the speech, so I have to back to...

KASICH: Well, that's a -- that's a little -- I mean, it's going to be a humdinger, I believe. But here's what to -- (INAUDIBLE) going to clear.  But here's what I wanted you to know.

We reformed welfare, had to get the Democrats to go along. We balanced the budget, which is a -- one of the hardest things to do because everybody wants to spend. And we got that done. In Ohio, we went from way in the hole to now we're running surpluses. We're up 400,000-plus jobs.

You see, Sean, you can't really lead from the House and the Senate. You can try. But Newt found out you couldn't do it. You got to lead from the White House.

And let me just tell you this. We will freeze all federal regulations for one year, except for health and safety. We'll unwind the regulations we have. We will force the Congress to vote on regulations coming out of the bureaucracy in excess of $100 million.

We're going to reduce the corporate taxes to 25 percent. We're going to bring the profits back from Europe because we're not going to double tax them. We're going to simplify the tax code and lower the taxes. We will have a path to balancing the budget. We'll move welfare, education, infrastructure, job training out of Washington. We will fix Social Security. We will secure the border and have a path to legalization and never citizenship.

And then we will tell the world that we are, in fact, the leader of the world. And I promise you I will have a plan to Congress within the first 100 days that we'll do all of that, every little bit of it!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: We're just getting started as we continue with Ohio governor John Kasich. He'll be with us for the entire hour tonight.

And then later, members of the audience will have a chance to ask the governor some of their questions. It's "Hannity" on the road in Saratoga Springs in beautiful New York as we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." We're on the road. We're in Saratoga Springs in New York for the hour. We have Ohio governor John Kasich with us. He's the guest.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: All right, I'm -- I have to ask you questions about your path, but I want to hear more of your vision because I think we don't ask enough of that. And I think that's legitimate criticism. But you said -- you're giving the speech tomorrow, two paths. I asked you for a preview, and you ducked my question.

KASICH: No, no, no, no!

HANNITY: No, I'm teasing. I'm teasing.

KASICH: Well, I mean...

HANNITY: We started to talk about something else.

KASICH: How about we just talk about how -- whether we're going to live in the ditch or whether we're going to come out of the ditch and realize the sun can come up.

HANNITY: Do you really -- because maybe it's -- a part of me at times is always optimistic. We've been through a depression, world wars, 9/11.  We've had great challenges as a country. We've overcome it. But I've never seen a time where Americans are so divided.

KASICH: They are. But, you know, Sean, it gets to be about realistic solutions, a record that shows you can do it. But here's the other thing.  You have to show people in the other party respect. You can't trash them.  It's like...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Now, look, we had -- we had the president of the United States do executive orders, which is way beyond what he should have done.

HANNITY: Illegal?

KASICH: And secondly -- should be reversed for sure.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Illegal unconstitutional?

KASICH: That I don't know. I'm not a lawyer. But thank you. I'm not a lawyer.

(LAUGHTER)

KASICH: But -- but -- and then, you know, he does "Obama care" without one Republican vote. And then let me tell you the other side of it. The president of the United States is making a speech at the State of the Union, and a Republican yells, "You lie," and then raises money the next day. You don't -- this is America. We're not a parliamentary system.

So I was with the Democrats last week and I made a state of the state. And I asked the senate leader, I said, What do you want? I said, Don't give me crazy stuff but tell me what you want. He gave me a couple things. I said, I'm not going to do that, but I can do that and I can do this and I can do that, and no, no, we're not going to do that.

And so what you have to do is you have to respect people in the other party. You don't have to agree with them. But I've got to tell you, we're going to have to invite some conservative Democrats in to help us. That's how you get Social Security done.

HANNITY: Can I play...

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: We have to -- we have to do it.

HANNITY: But here's my -- here's my retort. This is a president that called Republicans social Darwinists.

KASICH: I know.

HANNITY: He said their plan is for dirty air, dirty water. You see the ads of Paul Ryan lookalikes throwing poor grandma over the cliff. If you're the nominee, whoever the nominee is, they are -- you're going to be called racist, sexist. You want dirty air, water. You want to kill Grandma. And you want old people to fend for themselves. How do you deal with that? Because that's what they're going to do to you and you're saying you got to get along with them!

KASICH: Smile.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KASICH: And look, I got the guys in my own party doing it to me right now!

HANNITY: Yes, that's true.

KASICH: OK? No, I mean, the thing is, you want to answer the charges.  And -- but you got the show the way. And look, this is the stuff they did to Reagan. Remember, they said he was a grade-D actor. He didn't -- just keep going with your stuff, one foot in front of the other, and you have to expect these kinds of things. But over time, you have to get people to respect one another.

Remember, when Reagan was president, the Republicans didn't control the House. So he was able to get Phil Gramm, who was a Democrat at the time, and they came together.

Here's what I think we need to do. Let's just take Social Security.  You're going to have to tell Republicans and Democrats, We got to stop screwing around with this. We're putting -- we're sacrificing our kids' future and we're hurting Grandma. We got to stop doing it.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: They already stole the money. It's gone. It's not in a lock box.

KASICH: We -- we -- no, there's -- I know that. But you know what?  There's a way to fix Social Security, and I'll tell you what it is. If you've had higher income throughout your lifetime, you will get Social Security. You will get less. For those that totally depend on it, they will get what they need. That's the answer to it. It's not that complicated.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: So you're going to means test it.

KASICH: Yes.

HANNITY: Raise the retirement age.

KASICH: No, I don't have to raise the retirement age.

HANNITY: You don't.

KASICH: Just by means-testing, I can get it done. But here's the thing.  If the Republicans say they want to do it and the Democrats are going to demagogue, you'll never get it done, and vice versa. So you have to be able to pull people together, reasonable people.

And one person once said about me, is, John, your greatest gift is you can get people to do what they know they need to do but they don't want to do, OK? You can get...

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: So you're going to get everybody to eat salad and work out?

KASICH: Oh no, no.

HANNITY: No.

KASICH: What I'm saying is we can solve these political problems, but the problem is, the war goes on. And there were so many times I had to appeal to people in my own party and the other party. We have to remember our legacy is building, not tearing down, Sean!

HANNITY: That's the...

KASICH: You can get this done!

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: You mentioned...

KASICH: I wouldn't run if I couldn't get it done! Why would I do this?

HANNITY: You mentioned in the last segment, you know, this is what the Lord wants us to do. And I know you to be a guy of deep faith. What does that mean in terms of how that inspires you? In other words, some people might take that as redistribute the wealth. That's not what you believe in.

KASICH: No, no, no, no.

HANNITY: You believe in freedom and responsibility and...

KASICH: No, what I'm saying is, you see three people who except for the grace of God go I, who are sitting in wheelchairs, some that can barely move to even move the handles. Now, you don't have to be a believer. You can be somebody who's not a believer and still look and -- we can't let them be in the shadows. We can't ignore them. That's not right.  Everybody's made in the image of the Lord. Give them a chance! Give them a chance to rise! That's all. Now, how did we ever...

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Yes.

KASICH: How did we ever think -- seriously, Sean, look, my mother said it's a sin not to help people who need help, but it's equally a sin to continue to help people who need to learn how to help themselves. But in the context of that...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Look, to me, if you take the mentally ill, I would rather give them some help, get them on medication and let them stand independent on their own two feet than have them live sleeping under a bridge or living in a prison. Now, where did that ever get to be about liberal?

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: I'm just asking you...

KASICH: I'm saying to you -- no, we don't want to...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Don't look at me. I didn't say that. I said liberals...

KASICH: No, no, no. But people say that. Look, redistribution of wealth is just dead wrong. The free enterprise system works. But the quote -- a great Catholic theologian, Michael Novak, a free enterprise system that's not underlaid by a decent set of values is bankrupt. That's not liberal.  That's common sense. It's conservative and it's right!

HANNITY: We got to take a break. We'll come back. More with Governor Kasich. We're in Saratoga Springs, New York, as "Hannity" on the road continues straight ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity" and we're in Saratoga Springs. We're in New York, with Governor John Kasich of Ohio. He's our guest for the hour.

All right, I purposely didn't start with process questions because I know it annoys you and it annoys a lot of the other candidates.

KASICH: It's all right.

HANNITY: Look, the only way you can get this nomination is in a contested convention. That bothers some people, some of your opponents. I want to give you a chance to explain how you get the nomination.

KASICH: You know, I'm not comparing myself, but that's what they told Lincoln when he -- when he was going to that convention.

HANNITY: He got it on the third ballot.

KASICH: Yes. You know what he told everybody? He said, Let me just be your second choice. If you're not for me first, you know, how about -- and he snuck it in there.

Look, Sean, nobody's going to have the 1,237, as I think that's the number you need, and we're going to go to a convention. And there's a misunderstanding of conventions. Who's going to be there? It's going to be party faithful, people who worked for 30 years, you know, stuffing envelopes. They'll be a ward leaders. They'll be, you know, state legislators, former politicians.

But when you go into a convention, you start to now assume a certain weight and a heaviness on your shoulder that you didn't have before you got there.  I saw it in '76 because I worked at that convention for Governor Reagan.

And what they're going to do is they're going to look at two things. Who can beat Hillary? And I hate to say this, but I'm the only one who consistently beats her in every...

HANNITY: Why do you hate that?

KASICH: ... single poll.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: You shouldn't hate to say that.

KASICH: And -- and they're going to think about who can be president. So what's incumbent on us? We're going to have to go to all these delegations -- and look, the Trump people, they're for Trump, they're for me. They're -- I'm second. I mean, I understand them. So you know, it's going to be incumbent on us to go and visit the delegations...

HANNITY: Would you ever team up with him?

KASICH: No. I'm not teaming up with anybody.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Let me ask this question because here's -- this is the tough question.

KASICH: Yes, ask whatever.

HANNITY: If Trump or Cruz win more states, have millions of more votes, have a lot more -- hundreds of more delegates than you do...

KASICH: Yes.

HANNITY: ... and you leapfrog over them through a contested convention, don't you think -- you talked about uniting the party.

KASICH: Yes.

HANNITY: Don't you think Cruz and Trump supporters are going to be pretty pissed off?

KASICH: Well, no because, you know, first of all, a lot of them that will go as delegates, they're there for a variety of different reasons.

HANNITY: I mean the people that voted, the people that...

KASICH: Well, look, here's the thing. Your daughter got a B-minus. Now, here's why...

HANNITY: You had to tell the whole world?

KASICH: Here's the thing...

HANNITY: She mostly got A's, you know?

KASICH: No, she got a lot of A's. But here's the thing...

HANNITY: It was in French. I don't blame her.

KASICH: OK, look, here's the thing. In order to get an A, you got to get -- you must get a 90. If you get an 83, you don't get an A. I don't care what people say. You have to -- we got the rules, and the only rules we have are the total number of delegates. And then you go to the convention, and if you go in with a massive lead, you're likely to win.

But if you can't convince the delegates that you can win in fall, which neither of them can do, and secondly, that they're not convinced you would be the best leader or president, what's wrong with the delegates on the second or third ballot saying, I'm going to pick somebody that I think would do better, who would win and be a better president? I don't get that.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Look, I'm surrounded by all of your supporters here. But I want to ask this question. This is important.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: And you need to hear this. These are not my -- I -- I did a town hall here, and then we invited you.

HANNITY: How many of you are voting for John Kasich?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: OK. So they're mostly your supporters.

KASICH: Well, but we didn't -- we -- I just -- we just send out -- we send out notifications, say, We're going to have a town hall. People show up, whoever they are. I don't know...

HANNITY: And somebody -- I'm -- I have taken the position I'm NeverHillary. You know the hashtag NeverHillary?

KASICH: Yes. Yes. Me, too.

HANNITY: I know you are. I guess what I'm afraid of -- and I'm thinking out loud here. For example, 34 delegates were awarded in Colorado this weekend. You didn't get one. Trump didn't get one. And it seems kind of unfair, like the establishment is kind of working...

KASICH: Well, look at what happened in Michigan. That was -- it was a battle for delegates, you know? And...

HANNITY: Aren't these rules insane, though, really? It seems you can win a state and come out with less delegates. It seems like if they want to for a time stop candidate A because they don't want that candidate to get to 1,237 using candidate B and C to stop candidate A.

KASICH: I'm not engaged in this.

HANNITY: But the establishment is.

KASICH: I don't know who they are. I've never met them.

HANNITY: Mitt Romney. Karl Rove said we need a fresh face. Scott Walker is looking for Paul Ryan. John Boehner in your home state said nominate Paul Ryan.

KASICH: Boehner said when he recouped he said that's not what I was saying. But that's neither here nor there.

You know when's happening, Sean.

HANNITY: He said it.

KASICH: No. What's happening is you have delegates who have minds. And on the first ballot, most of them are obligated to support who they got there with. But look, Cruz and Trump don't win in the fall. In fact, here's going to be the concern. No. Here's going to be the concern.

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Here's going to be the concern. We're not only going to lose the White House and the court, but we're going to lose the United States Senate. We're going to lose the courthouse, the state house. So when people look -- look, I'm beating Hillary virtually everywhere in the country. In New York, the last poll had me only five points behind. Why would a delegate who was there who wants to win in the fall not go after the first ballot and say, wait a minute. Kasich has been a success in what he's done in public life, a good team together and he wins. Why would they not want to go for me if I can win and beat Hillary? I don't get it.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Final question. For the voters who waited online hours --

KASICH: I know.

HANNITY: To pull the lever for your opponents.

KASICH: Right.

HANNITY: Those that spend hours caucusing. My question is, let's say it works out the way you're talking about here.

KASICH: Yes.

HANNITY: How are you going to get the people that do feel disenfranchised to come along with you and united everybody?

KASICH: Because you have to spend time with them, and that's what you do during the convention and even after the convention. Look, Sean, I was a young guy and I found myself in charge of five states for Ronald Reagan.  There was not a more bitter contest than Reagan-Ford. And when we lost, we said we're going for Ford, OK? The only reason Ford lost that election is he pardoned Nixon, but he did the country a giant favor. You move on. And most of the people who were going to be there are not going to be people who are just going to storm out and walk out. They're mature people.  There could be people here who will be a delegate.

HANNITY: I'm worried about the people that vote on Election Day, if they're going to show up, because that would worry me.

KASICH: I can tell you that I don't have any antipathy directed towards me by Trump voters. I don't know the Cruz voters as well. They're not dissatisfied with me. They just went for somebody else. So then you work to unite them with a big message, a big message of what we can do in this country. And, look, I can tell you this. If these guys get picked, look at their negatives. They're not going to win. If I get picked, we can win. I mean, I don't --

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: I said last question. I have one more. Sorry. If they brought in somebody who hadn't run and they leapfrog over all of you, I would be angry. Wouldn't you?

KASICH: You know what, I'm running for president. I 'm in Saratoga, New York. I'm having the time of my life.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: Until I came here. I know. All right, we'll take a break and done with that part. I could have started with it but I wanted to make sure.

KASICH: It was good.

HANNITY: We'll take a break. We'll come back. More with Governor Kasich.  We'll get some audience questions in. It's "Hannity" on the road. Yes, we're in Saratoga Springs, and we'll continue.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." We are on the road in Saratoga Springs, New York, with Ohio Governor John Kasich for the full hour. Ready, lightning round. How long would it take you to balance the budget?

KASICH: We estimate it would be eight years but I think it would probably happen much sooner, five to six. But it wouldn't matter because once we have the plan in place, the economy would start working.

HANNITY: Would you support cutting the size of government?

KASICH: Oh yes, yes, yes.

HANNITY: Baseline budgets?

KASICH: Oh, yes, yes. Here's the way you do it. You get a cap and say I want you to give me a budget that represents 90 percent of what you had last year, 95 percent of what you had last year, and you bring and give that to me. That's it.

HANNITY: Is the penny plan a good idea?

KASICH: Yes. We've got more than that.

HANNITY: How soon could you make this country energy independent?

KASICH: I think that's around the corner. In New York they ought to learn to get the resources out of the ground. We are doing it in Ohio.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: All right. You're -- a lot of people especially here in upstate New York, you know --

KASICH: Let me go back the first question, because here's the thing. Once you have a plan that begins to freeze federal regs for some period of time, you begin to drive these tax cuts, particularly the corporate tax cuts so people will invest in America and you have a path to a budgeted budget. If you asked the small business people here and they will tell you if they were certain of that they'd start working. So you get the economic activity a lot faster than when you get to the final.

HANNITY: Are New York's restrictive gun laws unconstitutional in your mind?

KASICH: No. Are they unconstitutional? No. I believe in the Second Amendment, and when you violate it, that's wrong. You don't do that. I'm a Second Amendment guy.

HANNITY: You're pro-life.

KASICH: Yep.

HANNITY: You're pro-religious freedom.

KASICH: Yes. Depends what that means.

HANNITY: Should the Little Sisters of the Poor be forced --

KASICH: No, they shouldn't.

HANNITY: No. OK, who are you're two favorite justices on the Supreme Court?

KASICH: Well, I mean, my favorite, of course, is the man we just lost. He was by far and away my favorite judge.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: I also like Clarence Thomas.

KASICH: I like Clarence.

HANNITY: And you would appoint originalist justices?

KASICH: I appoint over 100 now in Ohio and the first question is, are they conservative?

HANNITY: Right.

KASICH: OK. And that's -- they've -- I appointed a woman to the Ohio Supreme Court. She's fantastic. Conservative, common sense. Yes, of course you want -- you don't want judges making laws. You want them interpreting the law.

HANNITY: Is ISIS and radical Islam evil in our time?

KASICH: The worst. It's one of the worst things we've ever seen in history. So what do you have to do? You have got to get those Arab Muslim countries that we had in the first Gulf war, we kicked out Saddam, that means Egypt, it means Saudi Arabia, it means Jordan, it means the Gulf states, you got to get western Europe. You go in the air, on the ground.  You destroy ISIS. Destroy them. When it settles down --

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: When it settles down you then leave. Let them draw the map in the Middle East. And then we need -- I mean, America -- look, I wouldn't have gone to a baseball game with Castro. I would have flown home after Brussels. I then would have -- let me finish.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: You wouldn't do the tango?

KASICH: No. I would have come home. I would have met with my military and intelligence officials, called all the leaders in Europe, sent my team to Europe, discussed our vulnerabilities, fixed them, because what we need is the civilized world, all of the civilized world against the barbarians.  These are a cult of death.

And what amazing me, Sean, is how can these people sit in an apartment in Europe and plan to take a bomb to an airport and kill our families? We have to destroy those people. And here at home. Here at home.

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Here at home, joint terrorism task forces. That's why the Apple thing got resolved. It appears as though it did. Our joint terrorism task force, FBI, Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement, they should disrupt. We have a job. When we see crazy things happening, we have to tell law enforcement.

And then, finally, just because we would work for example --

HANNITY: It's not a lightning round, but go ahead.

KASICH: You're talking about --

HANNITY: I know. Evil in our time, it's important.

KASICH: On national security I spent 18 years on the committee. I went all the way from the fall of the Berlin Wall to kicking Saddam out of Kuwait, all the way to being in the Pentagon after 9/11. I have seen all this and I know how it works and what to do.

HANNITY: Last lightning round question and then we're going to get to audience questions. Three names at the top of your list for vice president.

KASICH: Derek Jeter.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Henrik Lundqvist. All right, go ahead. Who else? Three serious names.

KASICH: No. It's too early to measure the drapes. I will come back with that later. But I'll tell you what you need. No. Here's what you need.  You need a vice president who will argue with you but who is your partner.  I've already picked the vice president, you know? I picked the lieutenant governor. I have already made a selection like this, somebody that got my agenda, somebody who would go out and promote my values, or not my values so much but my policies. That's what you do not just for a vice president but the entire cabinet. You have to have the entire cabinet and the vice president all rowing in the same direction with a goal of being a job creating country and manage the budget.

HANNITY: We'll come back. When we come back, audience questions straight ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And welcome back to Saratoga Springs in beautiful New York. Ohio Governor John Kasich is with us.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: All right, you've got first time caller, long time listener.  What is your name, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, governor, and Mr. Hannity, thank you for visiting us here in Saratoga Springs. My name is Steven Lutman (ph). Governor Kasich, under a Kasich presidency, what specific steps would you take to help small business, especially here in New York, a highly-taxed state?

KASICH: Look, first of all, I believe that we need to bring the top rates down. I use the old Reagan plan, 28, 25, 10 percent with a capital gains rate of 15. But here in New York, if it wasn't New York you won't have any jobs. It's just that New York has got a certain magic to it. In our state our small businesses don't pay any income tax. Can you believe that?

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: But I would do as president, I would bring down the top rate to 28 percent which helps you because you pass through your business. Secondly, we'd freeze all federal regs for a year, and my vice president, whoever it would be, Derek Jeter --

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Derek Jeter would be spending time trying to unravel these crazy rules and regulations we have to make it easier for you. Very important.

HANNITY: We met this group of high school juniors. Hi, girls. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

HANNITY: Are you the spokesman? Have you decided? By the way, get out from behind her so your moms can see you on TV.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: There you go. You all have a consensus question for the governor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, Governor Kasich. The five of us are representing the Republicans amongst Democrats Club from our high school.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is one message you'd like to convey to high school voters?

HANNITY: Great question.

KASICH: Look, the most important thing for you five to realize you've been made special. There is nobody ever been like you before and there will never be like you again. And you have a purpose here. And you need to live a life bigger than yourself. And you need to realize that by living a life bigger than yourself and changing the world where you live, that is your purpose in life. That is where you're going to find satisfaction.

So I want you to have big hopes, big dreams, lots of confidence in yourself, because you're the generation that we're counting on to continue to improve our country.

Number two, we're going to create an economy where you can realize your God-given purpose through some of the work that you're going to do. It's really, really important.

And I'm going to give you a tip. When you go back to school tomorrow, you meet with your guidance counselor, and you say to your guidance counselor these are the things I'm trying to do. This is what I might want to be.  Tell me, are those jobs out there? And secondly, how do I get one, OK? We need to train our young people with the skills they need.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Thank you.

If I can add one piece to that, and don't date any boys, none. They're all horrible.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: All right, real quick, one last question. And we only have about a minute. You've got to really hurry as we turn it out. Hi, how are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening, governor. I'm from Karen Maginoswki (ph) from Clifton Park, New York, and my question is what steps will you take to handle the nation's current immigration situation?

KASICH: Well, look, we have to finish the border for sure. And anybody who tries to come in has to go back, no question, no debate. Have a guest worker program where people can come in and go home. And finally, for those that are here, they can have a path to legalization if they have not committed a crime since they've been here, paid back taxes, a fine, but never a path to citizenship but a path to legalization. And I think we can get this issue behind us quickly. I believe that, OK.

HANNITY: Governor, we've got 30 second. You're final word?

KASICH: The spirit of our country rests in us, not in politicians, not in the government. It rests in us and our families, our neighborhoods and communities. And you're going to have the tools, if I'm president, to do the things you need to do here, change the world, believe it. You can get it done. And America is going to raise for us, for our children and our grandchildren. God bless you. Thank you very much.

HANNITY: Governor, thank you. We appreciate it. When we come back, final moments as we continue from Saratoga Springs. We're in upstate New York as "Hannity" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." Wow, look at this crowd.  Unfortunately, that is all the time we have left this evening. As always, thank you for being with us. We'll see you back here tomorrow night.  Governor Kasich, thank you. Appreciate it. Governor John Kasich.

(APPLAUSE)

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Catholicism, Capitalism, and Caritas: The Continuing Legacy of Michael Novak

Catholicism, Capitalism, and Caritas: The Continuing Legacy of Michael Novak

Published by Nathaniel Peters at Public Discourse (The Witherspoon Institute) on June 2, 2015

 

In a time of intense debate about global capitalism and the power of economic elites, Michael Novak’s work is essential reading for those who seek to work for free and virtuous societies. Novak’s life is also a lesson in charity.

The current issue of First Things captures the paradox of contemporary capitalism. In “The Power Elite,” Patrick Deneen describes how the fight over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was won by corporate activism and interests. This is so, he argues, because

Today’s corporate ideology has a strong affinity with the lifestyles of those who are defined by mobility, ethical flexibility, liberalism (whether economic or social), a consumerist mentality in which choice is paramount, and a “progressive” outlook in which rapid change and “creative destruction” are the only certainties.

Corporations use their power to effect the changes they want, which all too frequently benefit elites at the expense of working-class Americans, socially and economically.

A few pages later in the same issue, Michael Novak describes free markets as engines of creativity, solidarity, and poverty reduction. “Free markets are dynamic and creative,” he explains, “because they are open to the dynamism and creativity intrinsic to our humanity.” Competition among corporations leads to better products, available to more people. Aiding entrepreneurship and making it easier to enter the market are essential for allowing the “bottom billion” to improve their lot. Novak argues, as he has for thirty years, that the best solution for poverty is still democratic capitalism: “a system of natural liberty, incorporating both political liberty and economic liberty” and founded on a prior “moral and cultural system, constituted by civic institutions and well-ordered personal habits.” Today, however, that system is changing fast, endangering the families and social organizations that help society flourish.

In Deneen’s mind, capitalism undermines society. In Novak’s, the right kind of capitalism is an important component of a free society, but by no means the only one. Those who seek to maintain the benefits of free markets without undermining the moral foundation on which society rests should review the basics of Michael Novak’s work. An American and Catholic Life: Essays Dedicated to Michael Novak is a good place to start. The essays in this recent festschrift capture the important moments of Novak’s life and touch on many of the themes of his work, which ranges from philosophy to sports to religion and the American founders. Novak’s most significant intellectual contributions examine the way in which theology shows us what makes a society free and virtuous. In particular, they offer insight into three main topics: economics, civil society, and charity.

Catholicism and Capitalism

Novak’s economic positions are some of his most controversial, perhaps because they touch on an unfortunate division within American Catholicism. It’s common to argue that both sides of this divide pick and choose what teachings to accept: progressive Catholics dissent from the teachings about sexuality and the human person, while conservative Catholics dissent from teachings about the economy. In this vein, some criticize Michael Novak as a shill for capitalism, accusing him of distorting Catholic social teaching to baptize big business.

But this argument betrays a deep ignorance of Novak’s writing. At the heart of his thought on economics lies one question: What gets people out of poverty? Or, in a more academic articulation, what economic systems are most conducive to allowing people to exercise their human dignity, realize their God-given capacities, and provide for themselves and their families? When many people think of capitalism, they imagine factory owners exploiting workers. Novak sees a woman with a micro-loan who can now start a business to support her family, or a community of immigrants who have arrived in America—like Novak’s own Slovak ancestors—who through hard work in their local community can build better lives for themselves and those around them.

What leads to the flourishing of such communities? A planned economy restricted by regulation, or a more open economy that permits failure and rewards success? Novak’s conclusion, developed at great length in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and other works, is that free economies are best equipped to do so. Novak’s vision inspired those working for liberation from communism, in particular. It explained why the ideology of their government ran contrary to human nature and proposed what a more humane social structure might be.

But that was thirty years ago. What of today? Certainly, we must remember that business can be a real calling; offering good products to customers and providing jobs for workers in a manner consonant with Christian principles are important tasks. But where Novak argued against forms of socialism, we must argue against corrosive forms of capitalism. In particular, we must fight the crony capitalism that ties those who police the market closely to its most powerful actors. A free market helps small businesses and micro-loans, but also allows for large and exploitative corporations. We should help the former and limit the latter. Advocating a free economy does not mean being mindlessly pro-business or anti-regulation. Rather, it means returning to core truths about the nature of the human spirit and the dignity of work and thinking about how these can best be promoted for the least among us.

As part of that, Samuel Gregg reminds us, we must remember Novak’s admonition that a free economy and constitutional democracy require “a culture that underscored the reality of moral truth and that held up, as the founders did, virtue and human flourishing as the goal of freedom.” Liberty allows economic actors to exercise and cultivate virtue.

Family and Civil Society

For Novak, economic liberty is not an absolute goal, but an important component in a society that allows its members to grow and flourish. As Samuel Gregg puts it, Novak argues that a free and virtuous society has “three legs: a free economy, a virtuous citizenry, and a political system grounded in accountability and responsibility.” By that standard, Gregg points out, the US is not looking good:

We have not so much a free economy as we have managerial, in some cases crony, capitalism; we have a citizenry that largely does not see or want to know about the happiness found in freely choosing to live in the truth; and we have a political system in which accountability and responsibility are increasingly voided and avoided.

Where are we to look for a solution? One possibility is to focus on large-scale solutions: government programs implemented at a distance to bring about greater material welfare. Historically, the results of those efforts have been a great lesson in unintended consequences. Instead of raising the American underclass out of its plight, they further entrenched it there. Figures such as Novak recognize that this was because poverty is not only about material wealth but about moral and social wealth. Communities don’t just need economic assistance. They need to cultivate values that will allow them to flourish. Any economic assistance that hurts the cultivation and transmission of such values will do much more harm than good.

This leads Novak and other figures to focus on civil society or the “mediating structures” that exist between the person and the state. These include churches, businesses, charities, unions or guilds, and non-profits such as the Boy Scouts. But the mediating structure in which values are first cultivated and transmitted is the family. Brian Anderson captures the core of Novak’s argument:

As Novak argues, it is in the families and communities of civil society that the moral life takes form and people learn about duties and personal responsibility, not just rights and self-interest and entitlement. . . . it is primarily in the family that we become self-governing—self-policing—citizens.

In other words, the family is the fundamental unit of society. It must be protected and strengthened by other parts of society so that it can help individuals and society as a whole to flourish.

Civil society has an enormous potential to build networks of growth from the ground up. It does not exist to serve the state; on the contrary, Novak argues, the state exists to serve it. Furthermore, the family is not only a place where moral capital is accrued, but also where financial capital begins. Many get their first jobs from parents, uncles and aunts, and members of their churches. Those who are serious about helping the poor need to take account of the moral ecology required for human flourishing and the structures that maintain it.

Divine, Cosmic, and Personal Charity

One other theme stands out in An American and Catholic Life: charity. In her essay, Elizabeth Shaw describes charity as not only the “pure and perfectly gratuitous love of God” but also, in Novak’s words, our “partial, fitful, hesitant, and imperfect” participation in that love.

The application of charity to the social order is what Novak calls the caritopolis, the civilization of love. A civilization of love recognizes that material things, the state, civil society, and the free market can be good in their own rights, but not absolute goods. Rather, they should be ordered to help members of society attain their highest good: union with God, who is love itself and the source of all that exists.

The caritopolis is not sentimental but realistic, especially about the failings of the human beings who comprise it. As Shaw puts it, “the Civilization of Love takes the best, most proactive approach to the fallen human condition, and indeed it exists precisely to confront and correct these shortcomings.” It also recognizes that human beings are social creatures. Respect for the dignity of the human person and the indispensability of human solidarity help form the foundation of a just and loving society.

Although the characteristics of caritopolis are universal, each society will manifest them in its own ways. Novak emphasizes “the right of societies to maintain their own unique character, the integrity of their own culture, and the historical source of their own spiritual unity.” This right must be balanced by a “cultural humility,” which recognizes that no culture possesses the truth completely but all stand under the judgment of truth. That in turn requires an understanding that the truth exists, that it can be attained, and that it can make demands on those who find it.

Where We Go from Here

In a sense, Novak and his vision of the caritopolis won their first big argument. Liberal democracy and the free economy triumphed in the Cold War. But the ground for the debates in which Novak engaged has shifted. We now wonder how to maintain a free economy, robust civil society, and the subjectivity of society in the face of the consumerism and cronyism that plague global capitalism. Samuel Gregg and others have sought to address these questions by building on Novak’s arguments. But Patrick Deneen, David Schindler, and others have argued that there are deeper problems with Novak’s thought, in particular his argument that the liberal philosophy undergirding the American founding can be reconciled with Catholicism.

In the afterward to An American and Catholic Life, Novak offers a rejoinder to these critics. He argues that certain liberal institutions are among the goods of the American founding, including “trial by jury; religious freedom; the separation of governmental powers; the division as well as the interdependence of the three great systems of a free society, the political system, the economic system, and the moral-cultural system; freedom of the press . . . .” But, he continues, “liberalism as a philosophy is unable to account for these institutions, is peculiarly vulnerable to relativism and authoritarianism, and is chiefly responsible for undermining the liberal institutions that we cherish.” Schindler and Deneen join many secular liberals when they think that liberal philosophy can explain the American founding. Instead, Novak thinks that “our philosophy lags behind our living.” Instead of condemning America to its root, we should conserve its best institutions by joining them to the non-liberal theological and philosophical principles by which we have lived.

However, our philosophy is conquering our living. The task now facing those who follow Novak is how to conserve and ground the goods of democratic capitalism in the face of undemocratic corporations, political parties, and slanderous internet commentators. The solution is not to blame free markets tout court. Rather, we should fight what undermines the moral ecology required for free societies, and free markets.

This will not be easy work. But the example of Novak’s life and the tenor in which he has engaged so many controversies provide another important lesson. Novak treats his intellectual opponents with a rare—and regularly unreciprocated—amount of charity, respect, and good humor. Throughout his debates in the public square, Michael Novak has lived out the charity, breadth of knowledge, and openness rooted in the truth that he preaches. We should do no less.

Nathaniel Peters is a doctoral candidate in historical theology at Boston College.

  

The Economics of Liberation Theology

Published by Carroll Ríos De Rodríguez at Acton.org on July 23, 2014  

None of the prominent liberation theologians influential in Latin America had significant training in or exposure to the discipline of economics. This was odd given that their concern for the material well-being demanded at least some attempt to provide an economic explanation of underdevelopment and mass poverty. Instead of engaging in such economic reflection, many liberation theologians effectively married their theology to various renderings of what was then the fashionable dependency theory, which holds that that resources flow from a "periphery" of poor and underdeveloped states to a "core" of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.

In his 1991 book Will It Liberate?: Questions About Liberation Theology, theologian and philosopher Michael Novak devoted an entire chapter to painstakingly demonstrating the ties between dependency and liberationist thinking. One of the quotes he uses as evidence seems proof enough of the connection. According to the Brazilian theologian Hugo Assmann, liberation theology would make little sense “apart from the factual judgment that the poor of Latin America suffer not from simple poverty but from oppressive structures, linked to external forces of domination.”

Assmann and his peers were persuaded by Argentine economist Raul Prebisch’s insight that was central to dependency theory: that peripheral economies were at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the developed, industrialized center due to the unfavorable terms of international trade. On this basis, dependency theory maintained that governments should erect barriers to trade. These would reduce reliance on agricultural products and exports and lead to the emergence of a domestic industrial sector in underdeveloped countries. Other dependency theorists emphasized that the region’s status as dependent economies had even deeper structural and social causes. Therefore social transformations had to accompany state intervention and direction of markets. Here we should note that this sociological language was also more familiar to many Latin American priests and theologians than the more abstract jargon of formal economics, given that most such theologians were educated within a continental European university framework which often gave precedence to anthropological and sociological concerns.

Leading proponents of liberation theology were not simply looking to curb external domination or implement piecemeal types of reforms. They called for a more-or-less socialist revolution.  Indeed, as Novak demonstrates, theirs was not a lukewarm socialism or mild social democracy capable of coexisting with private property, markets, and democratic institutions. It was, to use Gutiérrez’s language, the radical doing-away with “private appropriation of the wealth created by human toil” and the abolition of the “culture of the oppressors.”

How did dependency theory with its socialist-like proposals to solve poverty and the Marxist influence on liberation theology fuse together? One often hears disclaimers to the fact that not all dependency and liberationist writings were Marxist. This is of course true. Novak himself argued that “liberation theology forms a tapestry much broader than its Marxist part and is woven of many colors.” It is worth stating that the work of carefully distinguishing between the various theoretical foundations suited to liberation theology, as Novak and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) did at the time, is not the same as trivializing the broader Marxist influences. There are some subtle differences between the Ratzinger-Novak caveat and other claims concerning the impact of Marxism. Some of these other assertions were that (1) classic Marxism had been revised or distilled by the seventies, (2) Marxism as an academic tool did not contradict Catholic dogma and doctrines, (3) the first Christian communities were proto-marxian, and (4) a “Christian socialism” that eschewed Marxist atheism and materialism was possible. In a scholarly analysis published in 1988, H. Mark Roelofs maintained that the differences between liberation theology and old-style Marxism could be explained in the following manner:

Liberation theology is not a Marxism in Christian disguise. It is the recovery of a biblical radicalism that has been harbored in the Judeo-Christian tradition virtually from its founding … Liberation theologians turn to modern Marxism chiefly to gain a comprehensive understanding of contemporary class conflict and poverty.

In the face of such obvious equivocation – most notably, concerning whether it was possible to separate Marxist analysis from Marxism’s operating assumptions of atheism and materialism – Novak complained: “What no one clarifies is what is meant by ‘Marxist analysis.’” Novak went on to list seven elements in liberation theology that were present in much of the literature and decidedly Marxist in tone and content. These were (1) the effort of liberation theology seeks to create a new man and a new earth, (2) the espousal of a utopian sensibility, (3) the benign view of the state, (4) the failure to say anything about how wealth is created, (5) the advocacy of the abolition of private property, (6) the treatment of class struggle as a fact, and (7) the denouncement of capitalism. In Novak’s opinion, this worldview was not only theologically and morally wrong. It would result in Latin America paying a high economic and political price that would hurt the poor.

A ‘Liberal’ and Catholic Proposal

When he looked ahead to how Latin America ought to be transformed, Novak was categorical: “Liberation theology says that Latin America is capitalist and needs a socialist revolution. Latin America does need a revolution. But its present system is mercantilist and quasi-feudal, not capitalist, and the revolution it needs is both liberal and Catholic.”

The platform that Novak recommended for Latin America – democratic capitalism – was thoroughly described in his 1982 book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Novak went to significant lengths to explain that free markets, understood as spontaneous social institutions, were grounded on a substantive moral substructure. Humanity, he argued, could best achieve prosperity in an open environment, whereby the creative energies of millions of individuals were released from the base. According to Novak, markets also induce free and responsible participants to behave habitually with integrity and reliability; economic and social cooperation, for example, is preconditioned on the trust we can place in each other.

This line of thought was deployed by Novak for the intended audiences of Will It Liberate? Novak stressed, for example, that the market liberates us from poverty while democracy liberates us from tyranny and torture. In the format of a dialogue that he playfully calls a “catechism,” Novak established some of the liberation theologians’ biases against – and ignorance of – capitalism.

Capitalism, Novak insisted, is not morally bankrupt nor has it been improved on or superseded by the welfare state. Latin America, Novak went on to state, was still living in a “pre-capitalist, traditional system.” This meant that the market economy had not even been properly tested throughout the region. One cannot therefore say that capitalism has somehow failed. There is no reason, Novak added, why free markets should work only “up North.” Free markets did not benefit the rich to the detriment of the poor. Indeed, undue privileges now afforded some economic players in Latin America would not exist in a truly free market, and corruption would diminish.

The toughest objection of the liberation theologians addressed by Novak was what they perceived to be the Catholic Church’s alleged condemnation of capitalism. Was it not the case, the liberation theologians maintained, that economic liberalism led to moral permissiveness by making “money and wealth the measure of all things” and imposing an unyielding economic logic on life?

To such claims, Novak responded, “free markets are no more permissive than God himself, who sends his rain on the just and unjust alike.” The decline in moral standards and religiosity in the West, Novak stated, is not causally related to free markets. Indeed, he added, “the very foundations of the liberal society crack” when people abandon their faith in principles that antecede “any state or social order” and that “reside in man’s spiritual nature.”

 

This article is excerpted and adapted from "Michael Novak, Freedom, and Liberation Theology" by Carroll Ríos de Rodríguez in Theologian & Philosopher of Liberty – Essays of Evaluation & Criticism in Honor of Michael Novak, edited by Samuel Gregg (Acton Institute, 2014).