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Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Modest Proposal

According to the World Bank:
Cities are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Half of the  world’s population lives in cities, a share that is likely to reach 70 percent in 2050 (Figure 5). Cities consume as much as 80 percent of energy production worldwide and account for a roughly equal share of global greenhouse gas emissions.
 According to Pew Research:
In 2008 Barack Obama won 88 of the 100 most populous counties; in his re-election bid four years later he won 86. ... A 2014 Pew Research Center report on political polarization found that liberals are about twice as likely as conservatives to live in urban areas, while conservatives are more concentrated in rural areas.
So, Democrats cause global warming. Which means America can easily solve its global warming problem: just kill all the Democrats. Problem solved. And our overpopulation problem goes away at the same time. Government efficiency at its finest.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wy Is Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday?

Jews count days as beginning at sundown because that's what Genesis says, "Evening came and morning followed, the first day" (Genesis 1). Catholicism is the completion and perfection of Judaism, so for purposes of liturgy, Catholics calculate days the same way.

That's why you can go to Mass on Saturday evening, but it counts for Sunday - the Saturday evening Mass is technically supposed to be after sundown, so that Sunday has already begun, liturgically and Scripturally speaking. Now, this poses a problem for modern man. After all, sundown varies from season to season, but people have a hard time scheduling an event whose start time might vary literally day to day. What to do? The Church allows the local bishop  to unilaterally decree a set time for "liturgical sundown" that holds throughout the year for when Sunday liturgy may begin. So, Saturday evening Mass can only start after 4:30 PM or 5:00 PM, or whatever time the bishop has set. Anything prior to that only counts for Saturday, not Sunday. Anything prior to that uses Saturday's Mass readings, not Sunday's.

And this is precisely how we calculate that Jesus' body spent three days in the tomb:
  • 1st day: Jesus died on Friday before sundown, so He is dead on Friday. Nicodemus has to get His corpse into the tomb before sundown in order to honor the Sabbath rest. We assume that he, being a good Jew, managed this. Mosaic law decreed that anyone hung on a tree should not hang overnight, but should be buried before sundown (Deut 21:23).
  • 2nd day: Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.
  • 3rd day: Once the sun is down on Saturday evening, the third day has already begun. Jesus rises some time after Saturday sundown, possibly around midnight or 3 AM, so He rises on the 3rd day.
This is why none of the Jewish contemporaries to the apostles contested the fact that Jesus was in the tomb for three days. By everyone's count, He had been.

This also explains Easter Vigil Mass. Easter Vigil Mass is any Mass that begins after Holy Saturday sundown. As long as it begins after Saturday sundown, it begins on the third day. In fact, the rubrics indicate that the Easter Vigil Mass is not to begin until the first star can be seen in the sky.

Incidentally, there are actually three different Easter Masses: the Easter Vigil Mass, the Mass at sunrise and the Mass for the day. Each Mass has different readings and a different significance in the life of the Church. But it is the Easter Vigil Mass that all Catholics are encouraged to attend.

Only the Easter Vigil Mass has not one, but two different plenary indulgences attached: the renewal of baptismal vows at Vigil Mass is a plenary AND the fact that you attended a Mass wherein someone received First Communion is also a plenary. Now, you can only win one plenary indulgence a day, but the fact that there are two in operation here is kind of neat. The Easter Vigil is considered the Mother of All Feasts - it is the Mass from which all other Masses draw power and grace. It is the conduit of grace into the full liturgical year.

It's also a lot of fun to watch the candidates get baptized, if only because baptismal water is supposed to be running (thus "living" water) and cold ("we are baptized into His death"). The ancient instructions preferred a river to a lake (living water over still water) and cold water to hot. I have been to baptisms where the candidate accused us of having put ice into the water. To which, I don't see the problem, because we took the ice out before the Mass started, so...

Scalfari and Pope Francis

There has recently been much brouhaha about the Italian journalist Scalfari's mis-reporting of Pope Francis' words. Scalfari is 93, an atheist, and has a history of mis-reporting facts when it comes to the Pope.

The Pope continues to allow him personal access, continues to speak with him. Now Scalfari reports that the Pope says there is no hell. Many Catholics, disgruntled with the Pope, have insisted that Scalfari must be reporting correctly, that this is merely one more instance of the Pope's heretical leanings.

Normal, sane Catholics smile and shake their heads. We recall all the times the Pope has taught on hell, and the need to avoid it, and we laugh at the poor memory, the foot-stamping anger, of some of the Church's smaller children.

So, why does  the Pope keep speaking to an atheist who is so near death? To sane Catholics, the answer is obvious. In Les Miserables, when the bishop hands the silver to the thief, the old maidservant can't understand why the bishop is doing this. But we in the audience applaud the bishop for doing the Catholic thing. With every meeting, the Pope hands the silver to a dying atheist journalist, a thief who steals the truth with his words instead of his fists.

So, we can be the sane Catholics who applaud the Pope.
Or we can be the old maidservant, who can't understand what the bishop is doing.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Confession on Good Friday and Holy Saturday

The Congregation for Divine Worship issued the document Paschales Solemnitatis in 1988 which states:
"59. On this day [Good Friday], in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist: Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the Celebration of the Lord's Passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration." 
"61. All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells." 
"74. On this day [Holy Saturday] the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. Holy Communion may only be given the form of Viaticum. The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick."
If your priest thinks he is forbidden to hear confessions during Triduum, he is sadly misinformed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Skillful Liar

My son sent me an interesting piece from Chronicle of Higher Education about what a modern scholar thinks the university should be. 
The author of that Chronicle piece is a liar.

First, he fails the very first test of a true humanities scholar: he refuses to define his terms. When faced with the problem of defining what constitutes humanities, his response is, "We know it when we see it." That is a lie.

Take Shakespeare, for instance. He is the cornerstone of English literature, yet it is possible to get advanced degrees in many places without ever taking a course on Shakespeare.
Conservatives want the humanities, but they define the humanities as including the Great Books, among which Shakespeare is extremely prominent. Liberals (who control the actual delivery of humanities course content at universities), refuse to build their "humanities" program around the literature of dead white European males. They instead think the cornerstone of the humanities is identity politics, and they build their courses accordingly.

So, the author wants to pretend there is some kind of paradox between conservatives espousing the humanities and those same conservatives refusing to fund it. However, once you realize the problem that the author refuses to engage, to wit, there is a huge disagreement about what the humanities really are, then you realize there is no paradox at all. Conservatives don't view university liberal humanities courses as actually having anything to do with the humanities, therefore they refuse to fund the farce.

The author's matching paradox, the idea that liberals defend the humanities, but have gutted it of Western European values, is also not a paradox once you realize how the left defines "humanities." From their point of view, they are cleansing the humanities of bias and taint, not gutting them
And liberals have successfully redefined the humanities into their own image simply because they do control the course content. Of course, by redefining the humanities, they've destroyed any reason there might have been for taking any courses. After all, if humanities is merely identity politics, I don't need to pay $40,000 a year to have a university professor tell me who I am. I can simply look in the mirror. My own life experience is worth much more than any dead white European male's introspections. I don't need to go to university to know what my own life experience is. So, the liberal definition is self-destructive. If the liberals are correct, if the humanities really are nothing but identity politics, then the humanities courses have no reason to exist.

But the author can ignore this entire problem and construct fake paradoxes if he doesn't engage the definition. And he KNOWS this, so he deliberately doesn't engage the definition.

Second, this allows him to make absolutely absurd remarks like this, "A school — be it a Gymnasium, a Realschule, a lycée, a grammar school, or a public school — exists to teach. The university is a different kind of thing. It was founded as a corporation or union of masters, both to allay the pernicious effects of competition for students and to exercise some sort of quality control on the doctrine propounded. "

This is simply incorrect. In the original university setting, the students hired the professor directly. Students pooled their money to bring someone in to teach them. If the professor turned out to be a bust, the students fired him and hired someone else. The "union of masters" came into existence to prevent this. Everyone in the union agreed to work only for a contract that the students couldn't break. This mean professors didn't have to worry about being fired because they stunk.That's where the tradition of "tenure" arose. The "pernicious effects" and "quality control" nonsense ("We're here to help YOU!") was all introduced as an excuse to the rubes, that reasoning was used to hide the fact  the professors had gotten together to protect their rice bowls, their income.

He kind of even admits that this was the situation when he says, " Indeed, some universities, like Cambridge, supported a vast ecosystem of teachers who played a vital role in the actual education of students (for pay), but who had no formal connection to the university itself." Yeah, no kidding.
Third. But this yahoo doesn't stop there. He then simply makes up nonsense out of whole cloth about the university curriculum. Part of "travers[ing] the arts curriculum" was always education in Catholic theology. Is the author advocating that? If not, why not? He wants the arts, he should have ALL the arts, right?
Again, he half-way admits this when he says, "Alongside the arts were the three highers — theology, law, and medicine." But he couldn't bear to admit this without deliberately lying again. After all, since theology, law and medicine are HIGHER arts, then the other seven (the trivium and quadrivium) sat BELOW the three major arts and drew their authority from them. 
And, actually, medicine was an also-ran. The original reason for the universities were theology (making God's ways known to man) and law (making man's ways in accordance with God's ways). Medicine was added later. Theology and law were NOT "alongside." Theology and law were central.  The trivium and quadrivium were not alongside, they were BELOW and DERIVATIVE.

This allows him to tell the biggest lie, "The reality is that the humanities have always been about courtoisie, a constellation of interests, tastes, and prejudices that marks one as a member of a particular class." Which is a careful half-truth. The humanities have always been about being CATHOLIC, being universal, having a universal palate, able to absorb all the things of men, weigh all the things of men, because all of mankind is called to Christ.

Compare the universal call to holiness to the modern "humanities" of identity politics. The modern humanities is not about binding everything back together again to make one harmonious whole, it is not about universality or university, it is instead about identity politics and fragmentation.
Again, the author pretty much admits this when he explicitly SAYS that the humanities are about fragmentation, not universality, "Deep down, what most humanists value about the humanities is that they offer participation in a community in which they can share similar tastes in reading, art, food, travel, music, media, and yes, politics" The emphasis here is on the "similar tastes." All the blacks sit at this table, all the Mexicans at that one, the whites can go sit by the kitchen, and keep the Asians near the door, because they should really just leave. The modern humanities don't want similar tastes, but similar distastes - hate the white guy, hate the Asian, hate the "privileged", hate the hetero.
The author is a liar, but a skillful one.

I can only wonder if he is a true believer in his own lies.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The 10-Second Fast

The Ten-Second Fast

A lot of people want to test themselves during Lent by learning how to fast. That is a laudable endeavor. But not everyone can fast.

Diabetics, children, the aged, pregnant women... there is a long list of people who, for various medical reasons, simply cannot fast. Or, you might not have a medical reason, but you might still be unable to fast. For instance, you might find yourself in a social situation where it would insult the host if you did not consume food. Catholic Faith is not meant to insult people. As long as you break no Church law, then breaking your fast with your host is the charitable thing to do. The person you interact with is an image of Christ, the Bridegroom. You don't want to let your personal fast turn you into the man at the wedding feast who refuses to eat.

So, does this mean that if you have a medical condition or are in an awkward social situation, you cannot fast?

No, not at all.

Remember, apart from the prescribed fasting times, such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday or the Eucharistic Fast, there is no "minimum length" to a fast. There are people who have tried to fast for 40 days (the Church recommends against this, by the way). Bully for them. But that is really not necessary. The Eucharistic fast used to be a lot longer than the single hour we now observe. But the fact that it is shorter is not really the problem people make it out to be.

As St. Thérèse of Lisieux observed:
I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. [...] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less.
In honor or her brilliant, insightful way of presenting the ancient teaching, we recognize the truth: it isn't the length or difficulty of the task that makes it holy, it is the love which with the task is done. The rich man may give away his wealth, but if the beggar woman throws her penny into the collection with great love, than her contribution is greater than that of the rich man who loves less.

And so we find the meat of the matter. If the length of the fast isn't really relevant (and, apart from the Church's prescribed fasts, it isn't), then a Catholic's voluntary fast can be of any length. Even ten seconds is enough. And anyone can do a 10-second fast.

Have you just become aware that you are thirsty?
Then, while you contemplate God with love, simply refrain from drinking anything for a count of ten.

You have fasted.
Now take your drink of water, satisfy your health needs, make your host smile, and no one is the wiser but you.

Done with great love, this ten-second fast is a greater accomplishment than a 40-day fast. You can fast for the whole of Lent, in ten-second, five-second, one-second increments, here and there, scattered throughout your day. Diabetic, pregnant, child - it matters not. You still consume all you need for health of the body, while fasting as you need for the health of the soul.

And so the day becomes holy, and God is woven into your life, and Lent fulfills its purpose.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Laissez-Faire Capitalism is a Unicorn

Everyone goes on about how chimerical socialism is. The defenders of socialism always insist that it has never actually been implemented anywhere. The opponents of socialism point out that every attempt to implement it results in economic collapse and a slew of body bags. Opponents are therefore correct to point out that socialism is a complete failure.

But laissez-faire capitalism is no better. Supporters insist that small government is really best, as small government encourages the free reign of capitalism. But every time capitalism is tried, we get big government, not small government. The only time anyone ever got small government was right after a revolution turned over the apple cart. As soon as the revolution is over, government grows, because it can't do anything else. 

Just as socialism always leads to big government and body bags, so laissez-faire capitalism always leads to big government and bureaucracy. It cannot do anything else. The very definition of how to be a good capitalist involves maximizing all streams of revenue. Government is, and always will be, one of those revenue streams, so it is always in the interest of capitalists to grow the government, just as he would grow any other aspect of his business.

Big government allows successful capitalists to suppress the competition, via government's law-making ability, and to increase revenue, via government's taxing ability. Any good capitalist is going to take advantage of those attributes. If he doesn't, he isn't a good capitalist.

This is why there is always a revolving door between business and government. Business needs ex-government leaders in-house, so they have experts available in how to co-opt government. Government needs ex-business leaders in-house so it knows how best to facilitate income generation and tax revenue streams. A good businessman always tried to capture government, and government will always allow itself to be captured, because it is run by businessmen who came in through the revolving door.

Laissez-faire capitalism ineluctably grows the government. Precisely because capitalism leads to the best businessmen getting the best outcomes for their businesses, it cannot do anything else.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How to Teach Math

Several years ago, I wrote a column explaining why math is an important subject. In it, I pointed out that the actual content, that is, the actual mathematical manipulations, didn't really matter.  What matters in math is the meta-concepts.

To be successful in math, you have to master an approach to the world that is inherently useful. College majors typically require mastery of a math course not because anyone cares about math, but because passing a math course is the easiest way to demonstrate mastery of the meta-concepts that everyone actually does care about.

Once you realize that math is about meta-concepts, and not about math at all, teaching math becomes really very easy.

1) Buy a math notebook.

Every frustrated math student, everyone who is poor at math, has one thing in common: they don't organize their work. They scribble numbers down all over the page without regard to sequence. If students learn ANYTHING in math, they must learn to break that habit.

So, beginning students should be actively discouraged from doing math in their heads. Yes, I know the Math-Bowl encourages this for the advanced students who compete, but it's not a good idea for beginners. Beginners need the external structure. So, buy a THICK, empty math notebook, with lots of empty pages.

2) Throw out the calculator

For basic math, they don't need it.

Calculators interrupt the student's concentration, forcing him to alternate between doing the procedure the problem requires and doing the procedure the machine requires, figuring out the correct sequence of key punches.

Calculators are mostly a distraction. No one needs a calculator until they start doing trigonometry or statistics. If they aren't doing either, then let them learn the multiplication tables.

If you think calculators should be allowed on basic math tests, then why shouldn't cell phones and internet access be allowed for reference on history or English tests? The Internet is the equivalent of a history or grammar calculator. Why bog down the student with memorization of useless dates and grammar rules when they could be doing higher-order stuff?

Now, watch the history and English teachers howl in outrage that you should suggest such a thing. Watch the math teachers smile sadly and say, "Yeah, well, welcome to our world, suckers."

3) Write down each step

The student must write down each problem as follows:
  1. On the first line, the problem itself
  2. On the second and subsequent lines, write each successive step.
  3. No more than one operation (add, subtract, multiply, divide) is permitted in any step.
  4. The answer is written at the bottom of the step sequence. 
No scribbling in side margins allowed at all. Don't allow multiple operations in any one step because beginning students get themselves confused easily. Each step does exactly one thing, that is all.

Ignore their whining. Even if a beginning student gets the answer correct, the problem is wrong if they haven't shown all their steps. Make that clear. Stand over them for a month, enforce it, and they will gain the habit. Ingraining into them this single, solitary little trick solves over half your math problems overnight.

4) A fresh sheet of paper for every problem 

Math is not an exercise in conserving paper. Be profligate. Paper costs less than half a cent a sheet. Splurge. Once they have successfully trained themselves to write out every step, you can alter this rule to allow more than one problem per page, but even then NEVER let them break a problem over two sheets of paper. Ever. No. I mean it, don't do it.

Beginning students get a feeling of accomplishment from seeing all their work laid out neatly at a glance. It feels restful, as the eye glides downhill through the gears of the problem and finally takes up its ease at the bottom of the sequence, peacefully resting upon the (correct) answer.

5) When they get stuck

First, if there is ANY sign of margin scribbling, turn the old sheet of paper face-down, start on a fresh sheet.
Do it.
If you start on the old sheet, all the old scribblings will be a distraction. The student will wander down rabbit-trails trying to figure out what went wrong with the previous procedure. Clear his mind. Start fresh. Give him the gift of new eyes and a clean slate.

Now, math teaches a lot of (seemingly) arbitrary procedures. The student has to know all the procedures and know when to apply which procedure. Both parts of this are hard, but the second part - knowing when to apply which procedure - is the hardest. So, when he gets stuck and isn't sure what to do next, here's what you do:
  • Ask him a question you are sure he can answer.
  • When he answers correctly, affirm it ("That's right."), 
  • Rinse and repeat. Ask a series of questions, each one of which you are confident he can answer.
  • Build that series of questions so as to lead him to or through the correct procedure.
  • In basic math, this question will always come up at some point: "Do you think you would add, subtract, multiply or divide?" Those are the four basic operations, and one of them is almost certainly going to be part of the path to solving the problem. 
  • The student is almost always able to weed out at least a couple of the operations. That instills self-confidence, it shows partial mastery.
  • Don't give the student the answer. 
  • Ever. 
  • Always respond with a question you know s/he can answer.
  • Once s/he has gotten the answer, point out the truth: "I didn't tell you the answer. All I did was ask questions. You KNEW all the answers. You already KNEW how to do it."
  • And the student DID know how to do it. He just needs to internalize how to ask himself the same series of questions you asked.
  • Don't point this out. 
  • Simply keep repeating this sequence with him on every problem he has, week in, week out, making sure he writes down every problem step-by-step
  • He will learn to internalize the question sequence himself. He will start asking and answering his own questions. 
  • At that point, you can go bake brownies.
  • This whole sequence only takes a couple of months to instill. 
Once this basic skill set is instilled, it is now permissible to have the student walk through the steps of a failed problem to see where the mistake was made.
  • If each step has only one operation, it will be relatively easy to see which step failed. 
  • Now the student will see the wisdom of the step-by-step process.
  • He doesn't have to re-do every problem from scratch. 
  • He can find and correct his own mistakes easily.
  • Once he realizes this, math becomes almost bearable.

6) When YOU get stuck

Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know. Let's Google it." You don't have to know everything in math. In fact, you don't have to know ANYTHING about math. Remember, math isn't about math. Math is about learning how to be
  • organized, 
  • good at documenting details, 
  • good at being detail-oriented, and 
  • good at following and trusting arbitrary procedures.
None of those skills require you to know the arbitrary procedures yourself. Even if you are no good at math, you will naturally be better at searching for the correct way to do it. Model how to search for the right way to do things. Have your student watch you as you bumble along, figuring it out.

The student thereby learns:
(1) it is ok to not know something,
(2) this is how you find out what you don't know,
(3) Searching for the right procedure takes time and that's also ok,
(3) Perseverance can be as important, or more important, than possessing knowledge.

That's all there is to teaching math.

Well, that and liberal use of Khan Academy. Yes, I have a degree in computer science, minor in math, and have taught developmental math at the college level for years, but I taught my children almost no math at all. There's no point. Khan Academy teaches the concepts as well or better than I could. I only got involved if a video was opaque (unusual) or a solution sequence unclear (also unusual).

Often-times, I would walk along through the Khan Academy solution to the problem as perplexed about the correct sequence as my child was. It's not like I remember most of the stuff I learned thirty or forty years ago. We would discover the solution together, which was rather fun.

No, the only way I have ever taught math was to follow the sequence I have described above. It works.


A friend reminds me that I have omitted an important step.  Obviously, patience on the part of both teacher and student is a developed skill that is the absolute key to the method, on both parts.

But here's the step I'm missing: constantly remind the student that math requires only one thing - it simply requires you to be as perfect as God. You can't make any mistakes. Easy, eh?

I used to regale the children with stories of mathematicians who made very simple mistakes and destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment, or entirely killed people. Everyone makes math mistakes, even the most skilled engineers and mathematicians. As I have frequently pointed out, I am a math teacher because I have gotten thousands more problems wrong than any of my students. My students can only become math teachers if they have failed as often as I have.

Fail early and often!
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Is Wealth Inequality Bad?

Many people, including Pope Francis, rail against wealth inequality. From an economic perspective, it is not at all clear why. Wealth inequality actually corresponds quite well with the rising tide of affluence throughout the world. Right now, during a period of the most extreme wealth inequality between nations ever, we are also on the verge of wiping out extreme poverty. This is not a coincidence.

I have noted before that the office of the papacy does not include the requirement that the Pope be very knowledgeable of economic theory, nor that he be very intelligent in his comments on it. While the Church has a duty to serve the poor, the method by which the poor are best served is largely prudential - different people might legitimately choose different means to solve it. Wealth inequality, by itself, is not a sin so long as everyone's minimum requirements for food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care ad basic human dignity are being met. Quite frankly, all but the last of those minimum needs are being met much better today, in a time of enormous wealth inequality, then they have ever been met in the entire course of human history.

In fact, things have gotten so much physically better precisely as a result of growing wealth inequality. Wealth inequality is correlated with EVERYONE getting out of poverty.
The "trickle-down" theory of Reaganomics is a fine example of how inequalities actually help everyone. Even Ted Kennedy admitted that much. The rising tide which brings incredible wealth to the 1% ALSO lifts the 99% out of poverty. The mechanics for how it works is very straightforward.

Take laparoscopic surgery, for instance. When I was young, that was only an option for millionaires. But, as more millionaires bought the procedure, economies of scale kicked in and semi-millionaires could afford it. There were a lot more semi-millionaires than there were millionaires, so scale kicked in again, repeatedly. As cost fell, more and more people could afford it, so more and more people did it, which dropped costs still further. The increase in scale also meant the procedure became increasingly streamlined and efficient, if only so as to handle the demand better.

Today, laparoscopic surgery is standard procedure for gallbladder and appendix removal, among a host of other applications. It provides cheap out-patient surgery that simply didn't exist 50 years ago. Why? Because millionaires volunteered to act as the guinea pigs. They were the only ones who could originally afford it. As they and their extremely well-paid doctors refined the procedure, it became increasingly available to the rest of us. Today, it is so common that it doesn't merit mention.

The same thing happened with cell phones. The original radio phones and cell phones were the size of bread boxes and cost more than any average Joe could possibly afford. But millionaires needed to stay in constant contact with their businesses and with the stock market, so they bought the tech. They served as the guinea pigs. As scale increased, price dropped, efficiencies improved. Now, literally everyone in the US can afford cell phones. And not just cell phones. Today's phones are the 1960s equivalents of super-computers that fit in our pocket and put us in touch with most of humanity's combined store of knowledge. The rich people and their richly rewarded tech outfits worked out the kinks. We have all benefited.

THAT is what wealth inequality does. It allows millionaires to act as guinea pigs for new tech. If it doesn't work, they waste their money and/or die. If it DOES work, then I get the tech about fifteen years later, because by then, the cost has dropped down to where even I can afford it.

Wealth inequality is an extremely efficient way to utilize resources. If I have a new tech idea, I can either try to convince tens of thousands of middle-class people to fund my idea, at great personal risk to each of their wealth stores, OR I can convince one extremely wealthy person to fund it at minimal risk to his wealth store. It was easier to do the latter than the former. Even today, being on Shark Tank will bring you funding in literally 20 minutes, while promoting the same project on Kickstarter will take days, weeks, or months to accomplish the same level of funding. It is far easier for Elon Musk to guide a project like the Falcon Heavy or BFR to successful completion than it is for ten thousand people to agree on how to do so, and that assumes you could get the funding from that ten thousand at all.

Wealth inequality is not the problem many people make it out to be. In fact, wealth inequality has historically been the solution which has made us all fabulously wealthy by any historical standard you care to name. Because of wealth inequality, the rich are willing to serve as the experimental guinea pigs necessary to bring functioning solutions to the masses. That's not a bad thing.

We have a knee-jerk reaction against wealth accumulation because we innately see the world as a zero-sum game. And the fallen world often acts and reacts as if it were. But the whole point of Christianity is to change our world-view. A Christian understands that God's grace and power are infinite, therefore the zero-sum game view can never be correct. Insofar as we image God, we have the ability to change our world from being zero-sum to being infinitely resourceful and wealthy.

Can we create Utopia? Physically, sure. Spiritually, not a chance. We are still fallen creatures, and that will always prevent us from establishing any real paradise on earth. We are slowly solving the problem of physical poverty. It really is going to disappear, possibly in our lifetimes.

But spiritual poverty? As long as anyone in the world is not Catholic, then the world still suffers from extreme spiritual poverty. THAT is the wealth inequality which we, as Catholics, need to remedy. Fortunately, from that viewpoint, Catholics are the rich one-percent. We have infinite resources that can be delivered to the poor among us, and make them all wealthy too. As physical riches percolate out into the world, that is the only wealth inequality we really need to be concerned about.