09 January 2017

'No core identity'? The impossibility of the state without a soul

I am no friend of nationalism. Given what my paternal relatives experienced as refugees in their own country of Cyprus, I thoroughly detest the clashing ethnic nationalisms that tore apart the island. I hate what the Turks did to the Armenians in 1915 and what they did to the Greeks of Smyrna seven years later. I dislike what Serbs did to Croats and vice versa. And, of course, I need hardly mention the Holocaust ruthlessly implemented for the sake of an ethnically pure Germany.

That said, I cannot endorse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's assertion that Canada is "the first postnational state," as indicated in this article from The Guardian: The Canada experiment: is this the world's first 'postnational' country?  Here is author Charles Foran:

But as well as practical considerations for remaining an immigrant country, Canadians, by and large, are also philosophically predisposed to an openness that others find bewildering, even reckless. The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, articulated this when he told the New York Times Magazine that Canada could be the “first postnational state”. He added: “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.”

The remark, made in October 2015, failed to cause a ripple – but when I mentioned it to Michael Bach, Germany’s minister for European affairs, who was touring Canada to learn more about integration, he was astounded. No European politician could say such a thing, he said. The thought was too radical.

For a European, of course, the nation-state model remains sacrosanct, never mind how ill-suited it may be to an era of dissolving borders and widespread exodus. The modern state – loosely defined by a more or less coherent racial and religious group, ruled by internal laws and guarded by a national army – took shape in Europe. Telling an Italian or French citizen they lack a “core identity” may not be the best vote-winning strategy.

Trudeau's description calls up some very strange mental images. One might envision a robot programmed to do all, or most, of the things a human being can do, but, like the unfortunate tin woodman in The Wizard of Oz, lacking a heart. In Canada we like to think that our identity resides in our very lack of identity. Not satisfied with citizenship in a soulless nation, some go so far as to assert that what defines Canada is its universal health care. But neither of these will work, and they certainly will not satisfy the human soul.

Following the late Benedict Anderson, we might call a nation an imagined community, given that we do not naturally feel a sense of kinship and camaraderie with those living even half an hour from us, much less on the other side of the country. But this is all the more reason for a country to cultivate and maintain certain intangibles that cannot simply be created de novo. Even the most diverse of nations requires some sort of commonality, that is, certain shared assumptions about life that set the tone for the larger society and for just governance. A common culture—especially political culture—is needed if a nation is to be more than just a collection of insular tribes under a political order so abstract as to be unable to command popular support.

Such shared assumptions need not be based on skin colour or blood ancestry. We needn't follow Gus Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding in asserting that there are two kinds of people in the world: Greeks and those who wish they were Greeks. There is no reason to conclude that our nation is the biggest and best in all respects and has a special mission to fulfil, based simply on the fact that we happen to live here. This is jingoism at its worst. Nevertheless, a nation should include at least such elements as common commitment to the rule of law, generally-accepted limits on political power and rhetoric, belief in constitutional governance, the rights of citizens, etc. English-speaking democracies have generally excelled at cultivating this political sense of nationhood better than many continental European countries whose governing institutions have not yet stood the test of centuries.

The danger of Justin Trudeau's rhetoric, however well meant, is that it may provide a pretext for government to manage all this diversity if it gets out of hand. Such government management will not, of course, be devoid of assumptions about the best way of life. The political managers will operate on the basis of their own worldviews, which in some sense they will be imposing on everyone else. As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus correctly observed more than three decades ago, a naked public square cannot long remain naked. Some comprehensive doctrine—some "thick" conception of human life—will inevitably fill the vacuum. If this is true in political life, it is also true in social life. Canadians, like Americans, cherish the contributions made by their immigrants, whom they have generally welcomed. But immigrants have come here, not because Canada has no core identity, but precisely because of Canada's core political identity: a stable democracy with a vibrant tradition of the rule of law rooted in British and French precedents. More to the point, this core identity is unlike the political cultures these immigrants have left behind.

Common assumptions, usages and customs, passed down through the generations, infuse life into a nation and generally preclude the necessity of government's micromanaging the larger society. A government that makes a policy of denying the normative character of these customs in favour of a vague multiculturalism does so at the peril of the larger culture to which it owes, yes, its own core identity as a constitutional government.

A slightly different version is posted at First Thoughts.

26 December 2016

The 'Kuyperian' Warfield

B. B. Warfield
During this Christmas season, I think it is most appropriate to post this wonderful passage from one of the writings of the great Princeton theologian, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921). In Reformed Christian apologetics, Warfield and Abraham Kuyper are often seen as opposed to each other, as the former focuses on evidences for the faith while the latter emphasizes the presuppositions that either support or oppose the faith. However, the following passage, taken from Warfield's collection of sermons, Saviour of the World, indicates that we ought not to overstate their differences and that they were at one in their understanding of the nature of redemption in Jesus Christ as encompassing the whole creation. I have broken up the passage into smaller paragraphs for easier reading.

It belongs to the glory of Christ that His salvation enters into every region of human need and proclaims in all alike complete deliverance. Even the lower creation, by virtue of the relation in which it stands to man, partakes in his redemption. If the very ground was cursed for man's sake that the place of his abode might sympathetically partake in his punishment, no less shall it share in his restoration. Man's sighs are not the only expression of the evil that curses human life in its sinful development. The whole creation groans and travails together with him. But it shares also in the hope of the coming deliverance.

For there shall be a new heaven, we are told, and a new earth. Under these new heavens, in this new earth, shall gather redeemed humanity, in the perfection of its idea, and in perfect harmony with its perfected environment. In the perfection of physical vigour: for what is sown in corruption shall have been raised in incorruption, what is sown in dishonour shall have been raised in glory, what is sown in weakness shall have been raised in power, what is sown in selfishness shall have been raised in spirituality. In the perfection of social organization and intercourse: for there shall be none to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain, and all the people of the Lord shall have learned righteousness. In the perfection of spiritual communion with God: for then it is that the Lord shall make Himself known to His people and shall dwell with them, and they shall need no Temple to which men should require to repair in order to meet the Lord, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple thereof, and the grace of the Lord shall flow down the streets in a river of the water of Life washing into every nook and corner.

Such is the picture the Scriptures draw for us of the salvation of our God. And let us not fail to note that it is a picture of a saved world. As no sphere of human life is left untouched by it; as on its touch, every sphere of human life is transformed; so the completeness and the profundity of its renovation of man is matched by the wideness of its extension over man. It is the renewed heavens and the renewed earth that we are bidden to contemplate; and dwelling in them in endless bliss renewed humanity. Renewed humanity; not a meagre company withdrawn from the sin-festering race, but the race itself, cleansed and purified and gathered home to the Father's arms; not without loss suffered by the way, it is true, for there are some who shall not enter into this holy city; but with all losses made good, all breaks in the ranks filled up, and all lacks and wants supplied by Him who has redeemed it to Himself and led it to its new estate of perfection in itself and eternal communion with Him. Such is the salvation that has been wrought out for us by Christ (Warfield, The Savior of the World, pp. 49-50).

"And He shall reign forever and ever!"

21 December 2016

The old neighbourhood

I grew up in a modest neighbourhood in a suburb of Chicago in the 1960s. My parents built their first home there in 1958 for the princely sum of $19,000! It was a three-bedroom ranch that shared the same basic design with a row of ranches on the south side of the street. On the north side were a line of one-and-a-half storey bungalows with dormers on the roofs. As children we played regularly with the other children who lived around us, and our parents generally knew each other and would occasionally be at each other’s homes. The elementary school was right on the opposite corner from us, and we mixed freely together in the school and playground.

Although this was not an old neighbourhood, having been laid out shortly after the end of the war, it was good neighbourhood where people chatted with each other and seemed to have a sense of community.

There were some colourful characters living near us. The elderly couple we all feared because they didn’t like children playing in their yard. A woman whom we called “Mrs Fritzy” after the eponymous dachshund she walked past our house every day. The man who had spent ten years in the Soviet GULAG and travelled around lecturing on the threat of communism. The sports writer for the Chicago Sun-Times who briefly lived across the street and almost immediately moved away after his divorce. The professor with three PhDs who would regularly come to our house to borrow, of all things, our dictionary.

We lived there for ten years, but they were formative years for my siblings and me. We were Presbyterians attending a public school named for a New England transcendentalist. I knew which children in my classes were protestants and which Catholic, and at least two of my teachers were evangelicals, one of whom had a Frisian surname and was a member of our church. Although a girl in my sister’s class was an atheist—an exotic specimen in my hometown—our school nevertheless put on a full Christmas programme every year, complete with carols about the birth of Christ. And then there was the Fun-o-Rama, a spring fund-raising bazaar in which everyone participated in some fashion.

Our town was in a flood plane, and an especially malodorous creek flowed behind our house. On a dare from a friend, I swung over the creek on a rope hanging from a tree branch, only to have the rope break and find myself plunging into the filthy waters below, much to the irritation of my long-suffering parents.

Having had such a wonderful childhood, I find it easy to become nostalgic about our old neighbourhood. I still dream occasionally of that ranch house in which we somehow managed to squeeze eight people—albeit not exactly comfortably. It was not a perfect neighbourhood, but we nevertheless made the time to cultivate the bonds of friendship with the people living around us.

Is this still true today? Do neighbourhoods still have a sense of community? I cannot speak for everyone, of course, but judging from my own experience I fear it may be a thing of the past. Houses are consumer items that we purchase, knowing full well that we are likely to sell them again at some point. We put a lot of our financial resources into our homes, trying to maintain and even increase their value so that they can be resold easily when the time comes. But this makes whatever community exists in a neighbourhood very transient indeed. We are committed to our homes, but less to the communities of which we are supposed to be part.

What if a group of friends were to buy up adjacent homes with the intention, not just of securing their own economic well-being, but of building community and improving the shared life of the surrounding neighbourhood? It might be even better than the neighbourhood in which I grew up so many years ago.

This was first published in the 14 November issue of Christian Courier. Please subscribe today.

16 December 2016

A student poem

One of the real joys I've experienced this past term is teaching two sections of a humanities course, Western Culture and Tradition I, which forms part of the new core curriculum at Redeemer University College. I love teaching political science, of course, but I've found that preparing this new course has allowed me to bring more of myself and my various interests into the classroom. Altogether I've taught around seventy-five students, or about half of the incoming class.

Among other things, we discussed the history of the earliest Christians who were often subject to persecution under the Roman imperial authorities. We noted that the ancient symbol of the faith, by which Christians were able to identify each other, was the fish. The Greek word for fish at that time was ΙΧΘΥΣ, an acronym for:

Ιησούς = Jesus
Χριστός = Christ
Θεού = of God
Υιός = Son
Σωτήρ = Saviour

Throughout the term, the students handed in journal reflections on either a text we studied or a cultural artefact such as a building or a work of art. I allowed for some creativity in the assignment, and one student came up with a striking poem on the fish symbol in the form of perfect Petrarchan sonnet:

                    ICHTHUS

I tread alone in vacant Roman roads
And hide in shadows cast by morning glows.
I glance from side to side for any foes
Who might appear from dubious abodes.

A sudden light in front of me forebodes
A passerby who might a danger pose.
My hand, though hesitating to disclose,
A single arch upon the sand encodes.

A mirror arch he scratches in the sand.
A fish we've drawn, two parts becoming one.
His shining face the rising sun now greets.

I've found a brother in a hostile land.
We fully trust in Father, Spirit, Son,
And stride abreast through swarming city streets.

Daniel Vander Hout, first-year student, HUM-110, December 2016

I commend Mr Vander Hout who, at such a young age, already manifests promising poetic skills. Bravo!

22 September 2016

The downside of deindustrialization

One summer in her youth my mother worked at the Willow Run factory in suburban Detroit where the short-lived Kaiser-Frazer automobiles were manufactured. The plant had been constructed just ahead of America’s entry into the Second World War for the production of B-24 Liberator bombers, which began rolling off the assembly line in 1941. A month after Japan’s destruction of the US naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Wartime Production Board to supervise the conversion of the country’s industrial might from civilian to military purposes. This adaptation was crucial to the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.

During my childhood Detroit continued to manufacture the automobiles that had become indispensable to American life, fuelling the nation’s economy. In fact, my maternal grandfather was working on an assembly line at a General Motors plant in Pontiac, Michigan, while I was growing up.

Half a century later North America’s thoroughfares are largely filled with Japanese, German and Korean automobiles, with GM, Ford and Chrysler marques definitely in the minority. What happened to our domestic automobiles? Where did our manufacturing jobs go? Often they were exported to Mexico or overseas where nonunionized labour is less expensive and government regulations lax. In 1979 nearly 20 million workers were employed in manufacturing jobs, but by 2007 fewer than 14 million held jobs in this sector, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over five million manufacturing jobs were lost just during the eleven-year period following the turn of the millennium, which indicates that the decline has accelerated in recent years.

Is this decline a bad thing? If increasing numbers of employees are now sitting at desks staring at computer screens, is this something to lament? Not necessarily, but it may be a sign of an unbalanced economy.

Free-trade liberals tend to extol the virtues of an international division of labour, in which production of goods and services varies from one country to the next. If each country had to produce everything internally for its own people, huge numbers would not have life’s basics. Switzerland lacks arable soil, while Canada is one of the world’s breadbaskets. We buy Swiss watches and they buy foodstuffs. Everyone gains. Our “buy local” movements may not see this as clearly as others do.

Nevertheless, the deindustrializing trends of the past half century are producing a world in which brain and brawn are more geographically distant from each other than ever before. There have long been white- and blue-collar neighbourhoods in our cities. But now we may be seeing the rise of white-collar and blue-collar countries, where the differing legal systems prevent the development of healthy workplaces and labour relationships, especially in poorer countries attempting to live at the whims of the wealthy west’s consumption choices.

But there’s also a negative for the western countries. Given the rapid decline of industry, especially in the US, there is reason to doubt that that country could repeat its impressive performance in the Second World War. If a new leader were to arise elsewhere bent on world domination, would an effort to convert a shrinking industrial base to military use be sufficient to carry the day against such a determined enemy?

The General Motors plant in Pontiac, Michigan, is long gone, and GM closed the historic Willow Run factory in 2010. No one can deny that changing economies are a reality to which we must adjust as well as possible. Yet it may be time to work towards rebalancing our economies to put more unskilled labourers to work, to renew our manufacturing bases, and to lessen the widening division of labour between the west and the rest.

David T. Koyzis is the author of Political Visions and Illusions (2003) and We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God (2014). He teaches politics and humanities at Redeemer University College. This post appeared in the 13 June issue of Christian Courier.

20 July 2016

The impossibility of equal concern: compassion is no substitute for justice

In recent months, terrorist attacks in different parts of the world have left scores of people dead and injured. Attacks have occurred in Paris, Beirut, Brussels, Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, and now Nice. After each of these episodes, North Americans are moved to express solidarity with the victims. On Facebook, such expressions generally consist of overlaying one’s profile picture with the colors of the French flag or posting a meme proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie” or something similar. Alternatively, we link to stories about the tragedy for friends and family to read.

But, as many have pointed out with some embarrassment, we do not offer our sympathies equally to everyone. We are more likely to express horror at attacks in Brussels, Orlando, and Nice than at attacks in Istanbul, Beirut, and Baghdad. Part of the relative inattention to Beirut and Baghdad is due to the fact that, because these cities have so often been war zones, violent acts are not altogether unexpected there, sad to say. We have become inured to the chronic bloodshed in the Middle East. An attack on Brussels, however, catches us off guard. We are horrified because Brussels is a peaceful city in which violence on such a scale is rare.

But there is another reason for the inequality in our expressions of concern. Culturally speaking, Paris and Brussels are more like New York and Toronto than are Beirut and Baghdad. We tend naturally to sympathize with people who are like ourselves. Even educated Western cosmopolitans who castigate everyone else for being too parochial in their concerns tend to sympathize more with other educated Western cosmopolitans than with, well, everyone else.

Excessive parochialism is, of course, a bad thing insofar as it tempts us to ignore the evil and suffering outside of our own communities. Nevertheless, we must always bear in mind that a functioning society has diverse spheres of responsibility in which individual actors properly care more for the things that are closest to them. This is something Aristotle understood better than Plato. And Tocqueville had a better grasp of it than Rousseau. While we may aspire to have equal regard for everyone without discrimination, in reality we are limited creatures with limited abilities. Our capacity for compassion is thus limited as well. When my daughter falls and scrapes her knee, my compassion for her is much greater than for the little girl down the street who does the same. And that is as it should be.

The problem arises when we tie compassion too closely to justice. True, compassion is often a motive to do justice. My own decision to study politics as a young man was motivated in part by compassion for my paternal relatives who had lost their homes during Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974. But I quickly came to understand that compassion is no substitute for concrete policy proposals, and that justice is more likely to be accomplished by hard work and the willingness to compromise than by claiming that such-and-such is the compassionate thing to do.

Furthermore, if we move too quickly from compassion to justice, we are at great risk of miscarrying justice. Why? Because if I seek “justice” only for those with whom I am personally able to identify, I may be unwilling to take into account the competing claims of a party I find less sympathetic.

Justice must be based on equitable treatment under a law that applies to everyone. When it comes time to weigh various interests in the balance, our political leaders must make their policy decisions without bias towards one side or another. Importing the language of compassion into the political or judicial processes could tempt decision-makers to tip the balance in favour of those with whom they can most readily identify—and that, of course, would be nothing less than injustice.

This is cross-posted at First Thoughts.

14 July 2016

Correcting Carver

Last October in this space I analyzed the Policy Governance® model that originated with Dr. John Carver and has been adopted by an increasing number of Christian organizations, including educational institutions. While admitting that there were good reasons to find the model attractive and efficient in theory, I suggested that in practice its considerable flaws should warn boards away from adopting it wholesale.

First, it expects too much of members of a volunteer board in ensuring the continuation of the organization’s mission, especially in the absence of multiple sources of information about the life of the organization. Without such information, the board will not be able to exercise sufficient oversight, the likely result being a loss of the mission.

Second, it removes the board from the life of the institution, which is precisely the opposite of what should happen. The board needs to be aware of what staff are doing, and they need to hear it from the staff members themselves.

Third, it places too much power in the hands of a single person, the chief executive officer (CEO), who is expected to be the sole source of information to the board on the state of the organization as a whole. If the CEO errs in his or her estimation of the health of the organization, the board may not discover this until too late, because it has not heard other, possibly dissenting, voices.

Plato famously thought that the best form of government would be rule by one or more philosopher-kings. The problem with his prescription is that, even in the best of circumstances, philosopher-kings are rarely available. This reality prompted Plato’s successors, including Aristotle, to opt for a second best, namely, the rule of law. John Carver seems to be a modern Plato, arguing for a board governance model that takes insufficient account of human nature and assumes too much of the CEO. So what is the alternative? I have three suggestions for alleviating the defects of the Policy Governance model:

First, there should be structured opportunities for interaction between board members and employees. If this is an educational institution, then faculty, who are on the front lines of its mission, should definitely participate. This will prevent board members too easily accepting the notion that what employees do is “completely immaterial,” as Carver unwisely puts it, to the board’s work. Such interaction could be as informal as assigning a few board members to circulate among staff (or faculty) on a normal workday to hear what things are like in the trenches, or it could take the form of regular gatherings with an agenda set by the board. It is preferable to have multiple sources of information available rather than leaving all communication in the hands of a single person.

Second, if the organization is a Christian university, the board should be formally interviewing faculty when they receive tenure, promotion, and renewal of tenure. The board should retain responsibility for approving these matters and not delegate them to the CEO.

Third, in a Christian institution of higher education, any effort to dismiss faculty or administrators should have the input and approval of the board and should not be delegated to the CEO alone. This will lessen the possibility of abuse.

An anonymous 19th-century Russian once observed that every country has its own constitution and that his country’s was absolutism moderated by assassination. I would not go so far as to liken the Carver model to such unstable political rule. Nevertheless, a workable form of board governance must find middle ground between giving the CEO a free hand and sacking him or her. The Carver model lacks this flexibility, at least without the checks I’ve proposed here.

As a people steeped in a biblical understanding of humanity and creation, we can surely do better than the Carver model. In the meantime I offer these three proposals for mitigating its worst features.

This post appeared in the 11 July 2016 issue of Christian Courier as part of the author's long-running column, Principalities & Powers.

09 July 2016

Os Salmos e a Primeira Guerra Mundial

One of my articles from two years ago has been published in Portuguese for primarily Brazilian readers: Os Salmos e a Primeira Guerra Mundial. Here is the original: One Hundred Years Later: The Psalms and the First World War.

28 June 2016

Unity and independence: How Asymmetrical Federalism Might Allow for an Independent United Kingdom within the European Union

In the aftermath of last week's vote in Great Britain to leave the European Union, a number observers have expressed support of the British electorate's narrow decision. There is undoubtedly something satisfying in seeing ordinary people stand up to progressive élites overly attached to their cosmopolitan dreams. Yet I would like to register a qualified dissent on the issue. Yes, EU institutions are hampered by the so-called democratic deficit, and many Europeans can be forgiven for thinking that “eurocrats” in Brussels do not have their best interests at heart. Because their own domestic political institutions seem more evidently responsive to their interests, they are willing to use them to assert their national particularities against an abstract universalism threatening the imposition of an artificial homogeneity.

That said, it is worth remembering that the principal architects of the European Union in the 1950s were devout Catholics who understood the principle of subsidiarity as set forth in the social encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI. Out of the debris of the two world wars, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer, and others sought to build a European federation that would transcend the national antagonisms that had plunged the old continent into conflict twice in thirty years. In so doing, they sought also to move beyond past efforts at unity from a single imperial center. What Napoleon and Hitler had sought to do from the top down the European Union would accomplish from the ground up, at once preserving the best of national autonomy and securing the advantages of greater unity.

We must remember, as well, that the Christian tradition carries within itself, not only the seeds of counter-cosmopolitan localism, but of political universalism, as exemplified in Dante Aligheri's De Monarchia, but even in the old Holy Roman Empire, which claimed some form of preeminence within western Christendom. Reflecting this tradition, the late Otto von Habsburg, son of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor and King, worked tirelessly for European unity, and very much out of a Catholic worldview.

Moreover, in 1992 the Maastricht Treaty explicitly enshrined the principle of subsidiarity for the future union:

In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Community shall take action, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be efficiently achieved by the Member states and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the Community.

In many respects this principle corresponds to the tenth amendment to the United States Constitution which provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It should be possible for local identities to survive within a larger federal union. The American founders certainly thought so and staked their country's future on it.

Of course, it could be argued that Washington has moved well beyond the powers originally enumerated in Article 1, section 8, encroaching on the prerogatives of the several states in ways not intended by the founders. Across the pond we hear similar arguments that Brussels has violated the spirit of subsidiarity, with the larger dream of unity taking on a life of its own at the expense of the hugely diverse interests of the member states. Hence EU leaders were shocked when French and Dutch voters rejected their proposed European constitution just over a decade ago. And now they are similarly incredulous that any country would want out of the Union altogether, when its benefits seem so obvious to them.

Yet this tale of discontent need not be the whole story. It may well be that future federations will more resemble the Holy Roman Empire or the pre-1848 Swiss confederation than the United States of America or Australia. Canada and Spain have already led the way towards a more asymmetrical federalism in which provinces or regions relate to the federal or central government in different ways. The notion that all component units of a federation must be treated the same is itself an abstraction that may be hindering just governance. If one of your children requires braces on her teeth, you wouldn't think of getting braces for all of your children for the sake of equality of treatment. Similarly, if one state or province aspires to greater autonomy than the others in certain policy areas, granting this in no way undermines just governance and may in fact facilitate it. While formally possessing the same powers as the other provinces as set out in section 92 of Canada's Constitution Act, 1867, Québec in practice exercises certain powers, for example, over language, that the other provinces are content to leave to Ottawa. While Spain is formally a unitary state, Madrid has devolved powers unevenly to its regions, with Euskadi (the Basque region) and Catalunya retaining more autonomy than others.

If we abandon the peculiarly modern quest for strict equality of treatment, it should be possible for the EU to function with its member states unevenly integrated into the whole. A two- or three-tier Union would be the result. France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries might be the most tightly integrated federal core of the Union, with no internal border controls restricting the free movement of persons and goods. Other states could remain members of the Union but opt out of some of its integrating features, including the euro zone and the Schengen Agreement. These would retain greater autonomy vis-à-vis Brussels, keeping their own currencies and central banks, along with other markers of independent nationhood.

Such an arrangement may seem terribly untidy and chaotic, but the reality need not be so. If subsidiarity means that as many decisions as possible are made at the lowest levels closest to the people affected, then an unevenly decentralized European Union may, after all, best conform to this principle. If the British people prefer that London (or Edinburgh, Cardiff, or Belfast) take responsibility for matters that the core members prefer to delegate to Brussels, then there is no reason why this should not be permitted. Great Britain could remain part of the EU while, fully in accordance with subsidiarity, claiming as much independence as it needs and can handle.

A bare majority for Brexit is hardly a ringing endorsement of such a momentous move, which threatens to fragment the United Kingdom itself. Better, it seems to me, to opt for both independence and continued membership in the EU, even if it means abandoning the artificial symmetry characterizing the classic modern constitutional federation.

A slightly different version of this is posted at First Thoughts.

15 June 2016

O liberalismo e a igreja: Liberalism and the church

Yet another article of mine can be read at tuporém: O liberalismo e a igreja: Como a espiritualidade pura deixa o ego no comando. This is a translation of Liberalism and the Church: How mere spirituality leaves the ego in charge. An excerpt:

É comum nesses dias ouvir as pessoas dizendo que são espirituais, mas não religiosas. Pura espiritualidade deixa o ego no comando, e igrejas de sucesso fazem seu melhor para recorrer a esse ego. Por outro lado, religião implica certa forma de ligação (Latim: religare) das pessoas com um determinando caminho de obediência não escolhida pela própria pessoa.

It is common these days to hear people claim to be spiritual but not religious. Mere spirituality leaves the ego in charge, and successful churches try their best to appeal to this ego. On the other hand, religion implies a certain binding (Latin: religare) of the person to a particular path of obedience not set by the person herself.

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can be contacted at: dkoyzis@redeemer.ca