Justice Scalia Visits Houston and talks about Socialism, Capitalism, and Christianity

September 9th, 2013

On Friday, I was privileged to attend a lecture given by Justice Scalia at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston.  The topic was “Is capitalism or socialism more conducive to Christian virtue?” He delivered the same lecture he gave in Italy a few months ago. Michele Olsen retrieved Justice Scalia’s speech in Italy from a new ring of Dante’s inferno (where off-the-record recordings of Justice’s speech wither away in limbo). I commented on Nino’s earlier talk here.

He began by noting that he has never before spoken from a pulpit.

Here is one of my favorite lines from the talk:

The cardinal sin of capitalism is greed, but the cardinal sin of socialism is power. I’m not sure there is a clear choice between those evils.

Here is a panorama photo of the beautiful chapel:


The Houston Chronicle has more coverage of his lecture:

“While I would not argue that capitalism as an economic system is inherently more Christian than socialism … it does seem to me that capitalism is more dependent on Christianity than socialism is. For in order for capitalism to work – in order for it to produce a good and a stable society – the traditional Christian virtues are essential.”

Scalia, who is Catholic, discussed how religious orders once took care of orphans and the elderly, which is now done in large part by “salaried social workers” and financed by tax dollars.

“The governmentalization of charity affects not just the donor but also the recipient. What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement,” he said. “The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced donors without love and recipients without gratitude. … It’s not my place or my purpose to criticize these developments, only to observe that they do not suggest the expanding role of government is good for Christianity.”

And from the Q&A:

Q: What is the constitutional basis for the principal of ‘stare decisis’ (legal principal of judges respecting the precedent established by prior decisions) and does it play inherently to the socialist?

A: “It is impossible to run a judicial system without it. You can’t reinvent the wheel with every case. … The constitution implicitly expects the courts to function in a manner that is not nuts.”

Q: What is the greatest miscarriage of constitutional justice during your tenure?

A: “Oh, there are many candidates. … The most disreputable area of our law is the establishment clause. (Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.) … A violation of the establishment clause that does not affect someone’s free exercise – there is no reason why you should have standing.