In the Christ-haunted and Christ-hating secular world of the rapidly dying West, Pope Leo XIII, popularly known among Catholics as the “Rosary Pope” due to his twelve encyclicals on the subject, is perhaps most famous for his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, which inaugurated the tradition of what came to be known as “Catholic Social Teaching.”
Ironically (or perhaps not), Leo’s encyclical and the social teaching that followed in its wake has been better read in the secular world than by most Catholics, especially those in the United States, who have been blinded by either (a) the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin-esque leftist reading of Catholic social teaching as “baptized Marxism” (an oxymoron) or (b) the neoconservative reading of Catholic social teaching reaching its apex with (the slanted neocon reading of) John Paul II’s 1991 Centesimus Annus as a full-throated endorsement of American-style “late capitalism.”
Rerum Novarum and Catholic Social Teaching
At its heart, Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, like the social encyclicals which followed it, is a condemnation of the excesses of both capitalism and socialism. Leo’s goal for “the new things” (Rerum Novarum) of juggernaut industrial society, which was beginning to climax in power and influence in the late 19th century, is an economic and social negotiation between labor and capital in which the State and capital are protected from violent socialist agitators but also in which the working man’s wages, well-being, and private property are protected by guilds—what would later be known as trade unions.
In a now-(in)famous passage of Rerum Novarum, Leo lays out his planned negotiation:
“Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice. In these and similar questions, however — such as, for example, the hours of labor in different trades, the sanitary precautions to be observed in factories and workshops, etc. — in order to supersede undue interference on the part of the State, especially as circumstances, times, and localities differ so widely, it is advisable that recourse be had to societies or boards such as We shall mention presently, or to some other mode of safeguarding the interests of the wage-earners; the State being appealed to, should circumstances require, for its sanction and protection.” (n. 45)
In this passage, contrary to claims by the now-dwindling tribe of Catholic neoconservatives and libertarians, Pope Leo argues in support of labor unions, which would allow workers to leverage power against capital in order to achieve a just resolution (interestingly, Leo further argues in support of state intervention to protect workers only when labor negotiation fails).
Leo’s reluctance to allow for state intervention in economic matters was not due to His Holiness’s secret affinity for liberal capitalism; rather, it comes from a profound and prophetic awareness that the modern state in its liberal and later “post-liberal” form has become a terrible menace to the Church. Leo himself was a prisoner in the Vatican due to the anti-clerical position of the newly unified liberal Italian state and his successors would face similar threats from liberal Western, National Socialist, and Communist regimes throughout the 20th century.
Much more than the lay investiture controversy involving medieval rulers, the totalitarian states of the 20th and now 21st century would (and have) become a tremendous threat to the Church, using their propaganda and intelligence networks to seduce and threaten the Church to follow their political agendas. The United States of America, grounded in a liberal constitution and promoting itself as a bastion of freedom and democracy, especially during the Cold War, presented itself as a safe haven for Christianity. As a quid pro quo, America asked that Christians, and especially Catholics, embrace liberal capitalism as the “truly Christian” economics.
The chicanery and trickery involved in getting Catholics on board with laissez-faire capitalism by the Catholic Cold Warriors (who would later be called neoconservatives) is a story for another time, but, needless to say, many American Catholics, deluged by a host of books from authors such as Michael Novak, George Weigel, and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus were sold on the idea that capitalism, Americanism, and Catholicism could be woven together into a serviceable political and economic agenda. However, having been scalded by the backlash against laissez-faire capitalism (which has, in effect, destroyed the American industrial base and flooded the West with cheap labor immigrants), as well as catastrophic foreign interventionism in Iraq, American Catholics have largely abandoned the neoconservative political and economic agenda.
But the feel-good, hip socialism (which was, in fact, just a form of state capitalism in disguise) of the Obama era, as well as promises of wealth distribution and “reparations” by rising Democratic figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren, has made socialism cool again—especially among Catholics. Thus, in assembling their odd medley of candidates for the 2020 presidential election, the Democratic Party has not been squeamish at promoting an explicitly socialist agenda.
Among the many strange and often mercurial characters in the Democratic pool advocating socialism is the capitalist tech guru and former Obama apparatchik Andrew Yang. What makes Andrew Yang so unique is that he has drawn the support of many conservatives, especially Millennial populists who had previously supported President Trump by conjuring a tidal wave of pro-Trump digital content on the internet.
Among the most vocal and influential former supporters of Trump on the internet (who uses his real name) and has a definable presence in the “real world” is YouTube personality Nicholas J Fuentes, host of the America First podcast. Although sometimes using crude and offensive language, Fuentes has a tremendous online presence and, in as much as he identifies as Catholic and promotes a paleo-conservative worldview, has become the Pat Buchanan of the Millennial generation.
Moreover, while Fuentes championed President Trump throughout the 2016 election and remained a stalwart Trump supporter until recently, he has now embraced Andrew Yang as a candidate. Fuentes is by no means the only or most prominent member of the “New Digital Right” to embrace Andrew Yang as a 2020 candidate; however, since he is a Catholic and someone who has a lot of Catholic followers, his support of Yang makes an analysis of the Democratic hopeful especially critical.
Dressing up in clever memes and hip retro hats, Andrew Yang is an especially alluring candidate for the disaffected denizens of middle America, particularly those generations who grew up in the wake of the Baby Boomers, the last generation to come of age and flourish in a financially stable and socially united country.
Taking note of the horrific and deliberately planned opioid epidemic that is ravaging America, Yang has advocated putting the notorious Sackler family in jail. Interestingly, he has also promoted a halt of the automation process that will soon replace, according to some figures, $1 Billion in jobs worldwide. He even bundled up for a late winter interview with a trucker named “Fred the Felon” to discuss his efforts to defend the American working class from near-certain demise.
Universal Basic Income (UBI), aka “Yang Bucks”
Yang’s most famous solution to the problem of increasing automation and the cavern of poverty, drug abuse, and existential despair into which many Americans are sinking, however, is right out of the play book of technocratic, socialist tricks: free money. As a way to attract voters, Yang proposes giving a universal basic income or “UBI” (often called “Yang Bucks” on the internet) consisting of $1000 dollars per month to every American over the age of 18 in the United States.
To many Americans drowning miserably in debt and coming to the bitter realization that many of President Trump’s promises to “build the wall,” “lock up” Hillary Clinton, and “get tough on crime” have all but evaporated, the promise of “Yang Bucks” is extremely appealing. However, like all good things in life, “free money” comes with a few strings attached, and Yang’s overall agenda is no exception. Not only does he advance the same old racist, anti-life, degenerate, and state socialist policies of the post-Obama Democratic Party, Yang represents a dramatic watershed moment in the development of the totalitarian socialist state in America.
As Notre Dame professor Patrick Deenen skillfully chronicles in his Why Liberalism Failed (itself a reworking of Paul Gottfried’s earlier After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State), the liberal state forged in the 18th and 19th century and reaching its zenith in the 20th is no longer alive and well. A new totalitarian statism has replaced it, and Andrew Yang, despite his unbuttoned shirt collar and nice-guy persona, is the salesman of this new socialism.
“Culture of Death” Platform
First and foremost, Andrew Yang is completely in line with the “culture of death” and is pushing the intrusiveness of the state’s tentacles into the lives of Americans. On his website, Yang announces that as president he will, “Appoint judges who support a woman’s right to choose,” as well as, “Support a woman’s right to choose in every circumstance and provide resources for planning and contraception.”
Upon first glance, this appears to be the same boilerplate line of Democrats since the late 1970s. However, there is something new in the works here for our post-liberal age. Yang not only believes that birth control should be legal (the old liberal argument) but also easily and readily available to whoever wants it, as his own website states: “Access to birth control should be provided to all Americans. It should be the decision of each individual whether she wants to use it, not a decision made for her by her doctor, family, or where she lives.”
This passage is very nebulous, but it seems to suggest that birth control should be given out either as a state subsidized program or readily available for purchase in a store. Given Yang’s socialist bent, the former is a more likely position. Moreover, the language that the decision should not be made for her by her “doctor, family, or where she lives” strongly suggests both forcing all pharmacies and doctors to provide birth control as well as providing it to minors against the wishes of their parents.
Yang also seems especially bent on ensuring that Americans are thoroughly doped up, both with marijuana (which he wants to legalize nationwide) as well as with prescription psychiatric medication. Very curiously, and sounding like something out of Brave New World or the Soviet Union, Yang wants to encourage testing and diagnosis of mental health issues when a person comes in with a physical complaint. It seems that Andrew Yang merely wants to replace opioid addiction with marijuana and psychiatric medication, which will, according to Yang’s policy, be presented in an invasive fashion that could be open to abuse.
Plans for Increased “LGBT Education” Funding
Not content with near-ubiquitous homosexuality and other forms of degeneracy in the mass media, Yang also wants to continue the advance of the sexual revolution, which, having dropped its liberal mask, is now entering a totalitarian phase worldwide. Like every other major 2020 Democratic candidate, Andrew Yang is fully supportive. “Too many Americans who identify as LGBTQ,” he says, “are discriminated against based on who they are.” As president, Yang promises to “[i]ncrease funding for programs directed at educating the public on LGBT+ issues.”
This can only mean more state-enforced homosexual indoctrination—like “Drag Queen Story Hour”, an event which (surprise!) has already become a magnate for pedophiles—as well as mandatory “LGBTQ” sex education for prepubescent children in public schools.
With all of these coercive programs (and many more to come, no doubt), one wonders if that $1000 of “Yang Bucks” will eventually be tied to political and religious conformity among Americans who, as the country continues to spiral into poverty, will become increasingly dependent upon government handouts from an increasingly enormous and intrusive state apparatus.
As Catholics living in America, we will be forced up against the wall in the 2020 election as the totalitarian left increases its open hostility toward the Church in particular and Western Christian civilization in general. Recognizing the legitimate shortcomings of Donald Trump (especially his unfulfilled promises), as well as the bits and pieces of Catholic social teaching brandished by the left to bait those Catholics foolish enough to vote for the likes of Kamala Harris, “Crypt Keeper Joe” Biden, Elizabeth “Pretend-Indian” Warren, and Andrew Yang, we will do well to remember the following Biblical admonition:
“Praise the Lord, O my soul, in my life I will praise the Lord: I will sing to my God as long as I shall be. Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 145:2-3)