Freedom and Liberty Through the Eyes of a Christian:
An Interview with Kishore Jayabalan, Director of The Acton Institute's Rome Office
Interviewer: Hanako Cho
Interviewer (I): Lord Acton’s words “absolute power corrupts absolutely” are very famous, but Japanese people don’t know much about him. So would you please share with us your knowledge about him?
Mr Jayabalan: Sure. The full saying of what he said was: “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. So not all power is corrupting, but it’s the absolute nature of power. Lord Acton was known for many witticisms. He had a very quick wit when it came to being able to put pithy statements together that expressed a truth – a profound truth about politics, or religion, human liberty. He was an English historian – 19th century – a contemporary of Cardinal Newman (now Blessed Cardinal Newman) who was also a very famous figure at the time. So there were a lot of political religious elements being discussed and debated quite a bit.
Acton Focused on the Relationship Between Christianity and Liberty
As always in Europe, the French revolution was a key topic of his thought. And unlike more proponents of the French revolution, Lord Acton had thought that the history of liberty coincided with the history of Christianity, that Christianity and human liberty grew together. And, of course, this was opposed to what many of the more radical proponents of the revolution had said, that Christianity, and especially Catholicism, needed to be eliminated in order for human beings to be truly free.
Lord Acton was a Roman Catholic himself from an old English Catholic family which had roots in many other European countries. So he happened to be born in Naples, Italy, just south of Rome. He studied in Germany because at the time he would have studied at the universities in the United Kingdom, Catholics were not allowed. After the English reformation, let’s call it, Catholics were looked at as not being loyal citizens of the Crown, and therefore somebody like Lord Acton studied in Bavaria. But, in a way this expanded his knowledge of European affairs quite a bit.
So Lord Acton was probably one of the most prolific, let’s say, public intellectuals or writers of his day. He wrote book reviews – lengthy book reviews – of virtually every important book that came out during his lifetime. He had things to say, opinions to offer, on virtually every political happening. And, of course at this time – in the late 19th century – both Germany and Italy were unified into the nation states that they are today. And so nationalism was a big subject of his when he wrote. The nationalist movements that were taking place all through Europe. Everything happening after 1848. Liberalism, let’s say modern liberalism or classical liberalism, depending on your viewpoint, were often the subject of his writings. But as I said before, especially the relationship between Christianity and liberalism and liberty and to what degree to they reinforce each other, to what degree to they improve each other, to what degree are they opposed to each other. These were the major topics of his writings.
Liberalism Is an Ongoing Project
(I): So what do you say about French Revolution and American Revolution?
Mr Jayabalan: Well, it’s hard to say any one thing about the French Revolution and the American Revolution. They’re vast – it’s probably “revolutions” plural when it comes to France. And America, for that matter. And in many ways the French revolution is still unfinished – it’s still taking place.
(I): It’s still staking place? In what sense?
Mr Jayabalan: Well, apparently a Chinese public intellectual has said this. I don’t remember who the figure was, but when he was asked for his views of the French revolution, he said “it’s too soon to tell”. So, liberalism is an ongoing project, I would say. And especially in France. We’ve had five republics since the French revolution and the French say that there will always be a sixth coming. So you never know what kind of crises are happening.
Acton Sought To Reconcile Liberty With Religious Values
I think Acton, like many Englishmen, was more skeptical about the French revolution than other Europeans were. The English and the French have always had a bit of a rivalry politically and culturally, and so I think the English tried to moderate some aspects of the French revolution. Edmund Burke, you think of Bourke’s writings, his reflections on the revolution in France, were so extreme from the continental point of view that he broke with the Whig Party. And, in many ways Acton was a Catholic Whig. He believed in progress, he believed in human liberty, but he also believed in enduring first principles. He believed that the Catholic Church was the true church, the true religion, and so how that reconciles with human liberty was always a question.
I think Lord Acton was a very admirable man in the sense that he was very positive about human liberty. He didn’t try to deny human liberty – he thought that human liberty was a risk worth taking and that civilization would improve as a result, so long as it was liberty combined with responsibility. He’s famous for saying: “liberty is not just the power to do what one wishes, but the right to do what one ought”.
There’s a moral element to freedom. And that there is a right and wrong way of using your freedom. And so I think Lord Acton this was true both for individuals and for societies. So in many ways he was trying to promote this idea of moral responsibility and human freedom being used for the common good, and that human freedom had not always been properly valued, let’s say, by especially political authorities. That hasn’t changed so much.
Acton Is Known for His Witticisms Rather than One Major Work
As a result, Lord Acton was a precursor for what many of us who work in the think-tank world in the United States and Europe would have liked to have done, both at his time when many of these events were taking shape. As I said, the unifications of Germany and Italy and the French Revolutions and all these things were happening at that time. So, he was a very important figure, especially for his time. He’s probably not as well known as he should be these days, partly because, he never finished his magnum opus, his great work; his great historical study on the history of liberty was never completely finished and therefore wasn’t published during his lifetime. And so there’s no one work we can go to and say this was Lord Acton’s greatest writing. People know his witticisms, as I said. So he was known much more for pithy remarks and his opinions on things, rather than one major work.
The Acton Institute Is Educating Religious Leaders in Economic Thought
(I): So you are director of Acton Institute? What is the mission of Acton Institute?
Mr Jayabalan: I’m the director of the Acton office in Rome. The Acton Institute is a think-tank based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which has been around since 1990 with the primary mission to help educate religious leaders in economic thought. To help people who guide religious organizations and religious congregations, or even have a religious, let’s say, interpretation of life to try to understand how economics relates to how religious people look at the world, especially when it comes to Christianity.
The Christian Struggle with Poverty
There’s a widespread opinion that Christianity is opposed to wealth or to riches, partly because there are many things in Christianity – in the New Testament especially – that seem to be critical of riches: “it’s harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle”, for example, or the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. There are many instances in which Christianity certainly does make a virtue of poverty. It does try to hold the voluntary vow of poverty by religious people as a good thing that frees them for more spiritually devoted lives. But, as a result, people think, well, we should all be poor. It’s the voluntary aspect of taking a vow of poverty that often gets lost.
So, we have a paradox. On the one hand we have this virtue of poverty when it’s individually taken or a religious order takes it on, but we also as Christians think that poverty is scandalous. So it’s both a virtue and a scandal. There’s a little bit of a dichotomy when it comes to how Christians look at poverty. As a result, many misinterpretations of Christianity have taken place. One, for example, was called “Liberation Theology”, which was a movement that flourished in the 1970′s and 1980′s. To put it very briefly, I would say it was an amalgamation – a synthesis – of Marxism and Christianity, Marxism especially as understood by Europeans, but exported to Latin America. It was a way of trying to correct the inequalities, social, economic and otherwise, that were often found, and are still found in Latin America, by trying to take the Christian message and politicize it – make it very worldly.
How Are Christians Supposed to Live Politically?
Well, what’s wrong with a worldly message, you might ask. Jesus, of course, as God and man was expected to be a king. And, indeed, he was a king. He is a king. But not in the way that, let’s say, many Jews of his time, and I would say even people today, would understand. Christ is famous for saying his kingdom is not of this world. And so there is an aspect that Jesus did not rule as other kings have ruled. He did not accede to power the way a Caesar would, or the way a Napoleon would, or the way even a President in a modern republic would. He remained a very spiritual figure, away from politics.
So the question is how are Christians supposed to live politically? How are we supposed to live together? And that, I think, Christianity has always left up to the vagaries of history, circumstances, the way people interpret the needs of their day and age, and in many ways Christianity has said these things will happen as they happen, but the most important things are of an interior, spiritual nature. How we live in the world, rather than how we structure society in order to bring about the kingdom of heaven, which has always been looked at with some doubt that that’s possible. And that God is ultimately in charge. That our politics are important, very vital to promoting the common good and social cohesion, but ultimate God is all powerful, all knowing, he exists outside of time and space so these things have already been decided in many ways, even though we have the free will to take that path. To decide whether we want to follow God’s ordained path for us or decide to go our own way. And this has always been the big question about human freedom. Is it a manifestation of human pride in the face of God and his authority, or is it a way of exercising the freedom that God has given us for greater purposes, in order to love and know God better. And so this has always been the debate, I think, about human freedom.
We try to apply that concept to economics. What can economics do to promote a healthy and virtuous society? What can economics do to help people live, not only materially better, but also spiritually. Are there things about economics that we understand from the study of economics that can improve society and make us all feel that we’re more fulfilled, living more in line with human dignity. What does economics have to teach us about these things is what we try to help religious leaders think about, not necessarily having answers to, but think about these things in a way that they probably wouldn’t have if nobody had brought up the issue of economics with them.
Making Profit In Alignment with God’s Will
(I): This is very interesting. I found an article, WSJ, Wall Street Journal, which talks about the Church of England very high returns because Church is company that would produce profit coincide when viewed from God’s perspective. It’s really interesting. So, how can we make sure the market that could produce the products or profits viewed from God, because something that sells well doesn’t necessarily have high added value viewed from God. So, how can we make sure of that?
Mr Jayabalan: Well, the way we make sure any of our activities are in line with God’s wills and purposes. We have to be very intentional in what we do. To think that our activities have some bearing on the world. And that we have some responsibility. That each of our activities in the market place, whether it’s producing, consuming, investing, whatever it may be, has some moral component to it.
There are times wheninvesting in company A or investing in company B, there’s not so much of a moral element to it. Let’s say they are two companies that are relatively equal and producing similar goods and services. It’s a prudential decision on the investor’s part which to invest in. It’s not necessarily a moral principle. But I would say overall we have to perceive what we do as contributing to the common good. And it’s that concept of the common good that’s often lost.
Individual Autonomy In Light of Human Fallibility
Many market economies are liberal democratic societies in which individualism – the individual – is considered the authority. Nobody can tell an individual what to do, or so it’s claimed. So as a result, any kind of moral claims, anybody who says someone should or should not do something – the “ought” question that I mentioned with Lord Acton – is considered out of place. Who are you to judge? Who are you to tell me what to do? This idea that the individual is the best judge of his own affairs. And, of course, that is a little bit of a problem because anybody with a little bit of experience and common sense knows that people make mistakes all of the time.
The individual is rarely the best judge of his own affairs. That’s why we have mentors and teachers and spiritual directors, and that’s why people look for guidance all the time. Anybody who goes to a bookstore, insofar as they still exist, if you go to Amazon and look at some of the best sellers it’s not surprising that in western individualistic societies individual self-help books are often very popular. And in a way I think that’s a concession that freedom is not enough, freedom is not sufficient. Somebody could say, “I’m going to respect your freedom so much that I’m going to leave you so alone that I don’t need to care about whether you’re living a virtuous life or not.”
So as a result we’re kind of caught between wanting to be an authority unto ourselves as individuals, and knowing that we’re very weak and fallible and nothing particularly admirable when it comes to being individuals. We’re lost sheep without a shepherd in many ways. So often we’re looking for shepherds. Christianity is often neglected, but that very language is from Christianity sheep without a shepherd is what Jesus says. And so people don’t know where to go, and so they’re always looking for other ways of fulfilling they’re everyday activities, for giving their everyday activities some purpose in the overall sense of life and the order of things. And, as a result, people are always asking questions and looking for answers.
The Acton Institute Is Helping People Combine the Material with The Spiritual
So [at Acton], on the flip-side we like to also help business people and these days in our advanced societies almost everybody is a business person of some sort. We all buy and sell things. We all go shopping. We’re all investors insofar as we’re probably middle class and above. What does all this have to do with life? All the big questions, why we exist and what we are supposed to be doing here. So, again, we try to bring these aspects together – the material and the spiritual – without neglecting one or the other, or denigrating one or the other, because one without the other is somehow less human. Life would not be as rich, would not be as rewarding, if we neglected one aspect at the expense of the other.
Sothis is some of the things that we like to do. It’s not always popular. I would say that, quoting our co-founder, Father Robert Sirico: “many religious traditionalists think we’re crazy libertarians, and many libertarians think we’re hoary traditionalists.” We’re somewhere in between those two camps. I think the most important thing is to think about how human beings actually are. Human beings have both these sides to them. This desire to be independent and self-governing, as well as a realization that we actually don’t know as much as we claim to. We don’t know what is best for us. It’s a very difficult, long process to educate oneself, and a life-long one, and one that certainly the western tradition has tried to maintain. If you look at eastern societies, the very traditional aspects of eastern cultures and eastern civilizations stress authority, the realization that individuals are not the best judges of their own affairs.
The Democrats Are Against The Pro-Life Stance of The Catholic Church
(I): In the presidential campaign Mrs Clinton claimed that Catholic Church needs to have Catholic spring. Have you ever heard of that?
Mr Jayabalan: I don’t think it was Clinton; it came out in the emails that her Chief of Staff had been exchanging with some of her campaign workers. But it wasn’t Clinton herself. Still, people around her were saying there needs to be a Catholic spring.
(I): Because of its backward views on pro-life? But being a religious organisation…
Mr Jayabalan: I think on life, and on women, I think it has to do with women in general. So many of the criticisms of the Catholic Church are not so much about the Trinity or the resurrection of Jesus or the nature of Christ, but they often have to do with the church has to say about women, especially when it comes to sexual ethics. So, let’s just narrow it down to what really seems to get people upset these days. It’s a very narrow preoccupation. Because the Catholic Church doesn’t go along with popular culture and modern culture as it’s currently constituted, people think it’s just simply reactionary. And anybody who becomes a Catholic, myself included, is looked at as being somebody who’s a secret authoritarian, a closet authoritarian, who wants to tell people what to do. I think that’s not exactly the case. We respect human freedom. We know that human beings are free to choose wrongly and make bad decisions. We know that. And that sometimes it’s better to let people make bad decisions and learn from them rather than trying to save them from themselves. We fully understand that.
The Clinton emails, well her campaign – her staff – emails that were released through Wikileaks reveal something that most of us in the United States have known for a long time, that the Democratic Party which was once the home of most Catholics in America has moved further and further away from the Church over the last 30, 40 years. And it’s very hard now to find Catholics who believe all that the church says and remain in the Democratic Party. And I think those emails just revealed that.
(I): Yes, as a religious organisation we are pro-life, not pro-choice, because the soul reside in mother’s womb in the later period of pregnancy. So we believe that. So that is why we are so pleased that Hillary Clinton was not chosen by U.S. citizens this time.
The Republican Party Has Become the Pro-Life Party
Mr Jayabalan: Yeah, there’s more to it than just abortion, but the abortion issue was what drives a lot of the religious vote towards the Republican Party. But this is actually a new phenomenon. The Republican Party before Ronald Reagan was a pro-abortion party and the Democrats were the pro-life party. This was one of the ironies of history, how the Democratic Party went from being the pro-life party to being the absolute pro-choice – pro-abortion- party. And it’s very unusual to think about how this happened. I think if you thought about this 40 or 50 years ago there’s no way you would have guessed that the Democrats would have become the pro-choice party. The Republicans, who were looked at as a very white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant party, who didn’t particularly care about abortion issues and would have liked probably to have seen fewer babies being born in the name of, kind of, social manners and population control and health and all of these kind of things, they are now the pro-life party. And this was primarily due to Ronald Reagan himself, who as Governor of California had liberalized abortion laws, and came to change his mind, had a change of heart, and realized that abortion was indeed a great evil on society and that it needed to be fought. And so as a result the Republican Party has become the pro-life party.
Liberty Is Not Compatible With The Governments Of North Korea and China
(I): I see. So going back to the Lord Acton’s remarks. He said that absolutism and autocratic government will not continue forever because it’s very difficult to keep the absolute submission for a long time. So, viewed fro this standpoint, how do you see North Korea and China?
Mr Jayabalan: How do I see?
(I): How do you see
Mr Jayabalan: China?
(I): North Korea and China
Mr Jayabalan: Yeah. What was the first part? China and?
(I): North Korea and China. Because Lord Acton said it’s going to be really difficult to keep the autocratic government forever.
Mr Jayabalan: Yeah, once people get a taste for human freedom it’s very difficult to limit it. And this is, again, a problem of liberalism. So, you may have had, let’s say, traditional mores in a society and then as people start to become more and more aware of their human freedom they start to question these things and sort of say, well, are we doing this just because we were told this is the right thing to do and therefore we need to question. And that’s very much a double-edged sword. On one hand it’s a very good thing because it helps keep government authorities honest. It helps people realize that just because somebody is richer or stronger or has more power, that does not entitle them by itself to enforce their will upon others. And they have to respect individuals as free and equal human beings. But at the same time, as I was saying, with liberals, they have a hard time recognizing anybody has any kind of authority. So therefore, we have to rethink and come up with our own morality every single day. There’s no reliance on what we already know and what has already been decided.
So, as a result of this, a place like China, which has started to liberalize, will probably try to keep the lid on political control while maintaining some kind of economic freedom. But again that’s a very strange thing to do, because if you think about state capitalism, to what degree are people really free in that kind of system? Material wellbeing by itself is not a manifestation, let’s say a manifestation of freedom. If somebody wants to give you all your needs, provide all your needs for you, which is what communism wanted and socialism has always said that the government can do, you’re not really free – people don’t really feel like they’re exercising their free will and their moral responsibility to live as they wish to live. And eventually those kinds of systems tend to break down. Partly because it doesn’t respect human freedom, and party because it exaggerates the capability of authorities to manage a large modern economy.
Combining Freedom and Authority
Friedrich Hayek talks about this in “The Problem of Knowledge in Society”. There is no one human being in any kind of government or bureaucracy or central planning agency that knows all the factors of production, all the supply and demand aspects of an economy, even a small one. And therefore they can’t set prices or decide where resources ought to be allocated and things. It’s better to let individuals do those kinds of things. Now, you can let individuals be free economically within certain parameters, called the rule of law in a very general sense, that it’s wrong to steal, it’s wrong to take another’s property and then when we have contracts they ought to be enforced, and if we have disputes we can take them to an authority – the court system. There’s always this mix between freedom and authority in any society. There’s never been a completely authority-less society in which people decide everything for themselves as they go along. So this is the problem. People don’t know where to turn for [authority].
What happens in more authoritarian societies, which are often based on a different type of anthropology, a different understanding of human beings, that human beings are not free by nature, that they need to be treated, in a way, like cogs in a machine and organized in a different way. That is not a way of achieving human fulfillment and the flourishing of human nature. But, again, if it doesn’t really reflect human nature it’s not going to work and I think both, theanarchist way of looking at things, as well as the authoritarian way of looking at society, neither of those fully reflects the drama of human life and what we’re here to do.
Should Freedom Of Speech Override Freedom of Religion?
(I): Last January in 2015 in France there was incident called “Charlie Hebdo”, you remember?
Mr Jayabalan: Charlie Hebdo, yes
(I): Yeah, Charlie Hebdo
Mr Jayabalan: Yeah, the shooting at the offices of the magazine, yeah.
(I): Yes. And, at that time, people argued that the freedom of speech surpasses the right of freedom of faith. French people argued in that way. So, as a religious organisation, we are very much, we felt, very, a strange feeling. Is there superiority between the two rights? Is there any superiority between the two rights?
Mr Jayabalan: Well, it’s the same question about freedom and responsibility.
(I): Oh yes.
Mr Jayabalan: Free speech often has to do with political speech and religious speech. So, I think it’s ridiculous to say that Charlie Hebdo ought to be shut down, or Islamic terrorists can go in and shoot them because they don’t like what they say about Islam. That’s not the way a free society operates, obviously.
At the same time, I know what you mean, and we don’t like to see religious beliefs insulted, but that’s part of free speech. If you don’t like it you have to defend it yourself. And, in a way I tend toward the free speech side on this just because I don’t know how you would control things in a way that respects human freedom. But in no way can you allow… I mean Charlie Hebdo was not a fan of any religion – they insulted Christianity, they insulted Judaism, as well as Islam.
Free Speech Is Not Absolute
So, freedom comes with a responsibility, again, and if you are going to attack people’s very deeply, seriously held religious beliefs you will pay a price for it. Now it might not, it shouldn’t be with your life, but they should be free to be criticized. They should be free, but our society should be able to say what is beyond the pale. We do that with all kinds of speech. Free speech is not an absolute in any way. You’re not allowed to incite violence using free speech, you’re not allowed to say false things about another human being – we have laws against slander and libel and defamation. So, again the absolutists on free speech, I think, are wrong. They have exaggerated their case. But religious fanatics like these who attacked Charlie Hebdo were completely out of place. They clearly don’t understand the rules of French society. They don’t want to play by those rules, and I think that France is completely justified in telling people who live in their country, and especially if you’re going to be a French citizen, that these are the rules you play by. You have to learn to respect opinions that you don’t agree with, and if you don’t you have no business being in France.
The Trump Administration’s Trade Policy
(I): I see. I’d like to ask you about your take on Trump administration’s trade policy.
Mr Jayabalan: Well, having followed the US election campaign, which seemed to go on forever and ever in the United States, I think there were some interesting things being said about free trade. For the first time in my adult lifetime both parties seemed to be against free trade agreements, let’s call them.
Now, I guess the big question is, Is a free trade agreement the same thing as free trade itself? I think this is one of the cases that Donald Trump was making during the campaign was that the North America Free Trade Agreement which, of course, Bill Clinton had signed into being along with a Republican Congress. When Bill Clinton did that he was being a New Democrat. The Democratic Party, which has traditionally been supported by trade unions, was very skeptical of free trade agreements. Now with the environmentalists being a big part of the Democratic Party, they tend to be skeptical of free trade agreements.
The left had always been against free trade agreements because they didn’t like to see the market economy being expanded, they wanted it to be controlled, especially when it came to labour and the environment. The right, the free market right, let me put it this way, had criticized some of these agreements because they tend to be forms of crony capitalism, of setting out legislation that protects some industries and doesn’t protect other industries. It’s not really a free trade agreement in that regard. And then there are some from the more, let’s say, nationalist right that don’t think that the government should favour the rights of foreign workers just because they happen to have lower costs than their own workers. There are a number of elements at play here and I think what’s important is that we maintain the idea that free trade is good, not only for the United States, but for the rest of the world.
The United States since the end of the second world war has had quite a bit invested in maintaining a free trade regime while the United States also supplies security, both for trade and for nations to exist and to promote this type of global order in the world. The United States has put tons of money and equipment and effort into maintaining this and Donald Trump is now questioning that, whether this is what’s necessary in the twenty-first century.
We Should Ask Whether Free Trade Agreements Promote the Common Good
There’s been a backlash against what we call economic globalization, trade and immigration are not looked at as unqualified goods. Which of course they’re not as no good is completely unqualified. Again, we shouldn’t be absolutist or dogmatist or religious about free trade arguments. We should look at them practically and look at whether they actually do promote what we would call the common good. Are they actually good for us as a society?
The Democratic Party to me was quite striking that Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA… Hillary Clinton was all over the place when it came to the TPP. She never really had a principled argument to make about it, and I think this is probably the reason why she lost the election. Nobody really knew what she stood for. Where Donald Trump said very clearly, “My responsibility is to the American people and especially those who have been forgotten.” And that seemed to have won the argument, especially in those states which made the difference in the US election, which happens to be where I am from: Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, what we call the former rust belt, where the manufacturing base has been tremendously damaged, not only because of free trade but because of technology and advances we have made when it comes to producing manufactured goods. Not only do you have [inaudible] lower labour costs [abroad], but we have technology that makes many workers redundant. And, without retraining workers and providing new opportunities for those who are negatively affected by progress, globalization is going to be on very shaky ground politically speaking.
Is “Fair Trade” the Best Way?
(I): So you say that it’s important to differentiate between the free trade agreement and free trade. It needs to have fair trade, as…
Mr Jayabalan: Well, I don’t like the term “fair trade” either, because that implies that we know what a “fair” outcome of an economic agreement is. Often times we don’t, and that’s why we allow for free trade for the parties involved to come to an agreement themselves. So, I mean, as far as I can tell, Trump’s argument on TPP was that, we’re making deals with countries who are not playing by the same rules.
(I): Like China…
Mr Jayabalan: Yes,for example, China’s currency manipulation. They purposely hold down the value of their currency so that they can sell more goods to the United States and make American imports into their country more expensive. And then you have a big trade deficit. That to Donald Trump is the real problem. So I think we need to see what he does. He promises to have tougher negotiators, which may be a good thing. I tend to think that if you want to have a free trade agreement it should be fairly simple;we’re going to reduce our barriers to entry into our country, and that’s it, quite simple. Reduce the tariffs. Make it easier to trade. And nothing more. No carve-outs for certain industries, no favours given. But again that might be a little bit unrealistic because all politics is like that. All countries will want to protect certain industries, partly for national defence and security reasons. And, so you can’t allow everything to be decided by economics. The nationalists have a point there, as do the free traders.
Trump Will Get the American Economy Back on Track
(I): I see. So do you believe American economy will grow?
Mr Jayabalan: I think so. The left in America has had, certainly under President Obama, no idea of how to get an economy moving again. They tend to rely on the government to grow an economy, and we know that doesn’t work. They say, of course, they want the government to assist the market, which would be fine so long as you don’t crowd out private initiative and innovation and entrepreneurship, all of the things that have been missing in the American economy for at least the last decade or so. Trump understands business better. He understands the attraction of making good business deals and getting growth and building things, so hopefully he’ll understand that what America needs to do is reduce the burden of government on business. Cut corporate…
Mr Jayabalan: Cut corporate taxes, cut regulations, make it easier for market economies to operate. And let people try to create new opportunities and if they fail they fail, but keep trying. This is how a market works. The Democrats, with their nanny state way of thinking, they want to coddle everybody and make sure that everybody advances equally, and if somebody happens to advance more rapidly than another, we have to hold them down until everybody rises up and eventually nobody does. And I think that’s the real problem with the way the left looks at economics these days.
(I): So that’s why many American pundits criticize Donald Trump?
Mr Jayabalan: Well people criticize Trump for a number of reasons. Not just his policies, but his perceived character and temperament and things like that. But what I think you saw in the election is that the American people said they didn’t care about those things as much anymore.
(I): As long as his economic policy…
Mr Jayabalan: Well, as long as he proves to be a good President. If he does what he says in terms of making America great again, however that’s defined, there’s something to that. And I think he knows, he really does think America is the richest, most powerful, freest, best country to live in, and he says, “We’re on the wrong track.”Something like seventy percent of Americans think that America’s on the wrong track.
(I): Seventy percent? Wow.
Mr Jayabalan: Seventy percent. So I think that’s the reason why Donald Trump is the President of the United States.
Brexit Is a Good Thing for Britain
(I): I’d like to ask you about Brexit. Are you comfortable talking about this subject?
Mr Jayabalan: In so far as I live in Europe. I feel I understand why the British people voted to
leave the European Union. I don’t think the European Union is a good thing overall.
(I): So do you think Brexit is a good thing for Britain?
Mr Jayabalan: Yes, in the same way that the Trump election showed that everyday working class people and middle-class people are not happy with the way things are going. We have a growing gap between those who govern us and those who are governed, that politicians seem to be able to be getting richer and richer, more powerful as they become less and less effective, and you see this in Europe all the time. The perception of Brussels is that Brussels is not doing well, is not growing [Europe] economically. It has migration problems. Britain has always been quite skeptical of European policies. It’s an island,an English- speaking country;more like the United States than it is like Europe in many ways, so to the degree that they weren’t fully in the European Union, it wasn’t a big surprise that they decided to get out completely. I think many Europeans were probably
startled that the British people voted to get out, but they don’t seem to
realize that if their own people were asked if they should stay in Europe, the European Union, excuse me, or get out many of them might vote the same way.
The European Union Is Not the Same Thing As Europe
But I think it’s a mistake, I just made the slip of the tongue, to say that the European Union is necessary the same thing as Europe. The European Union is a political
arrangement that is not particularly effective anymore and it’s also taking credit for many things that it had nothing to do with, for example that peace and security of Europe during the Cold War, which arguably has more to do with NATO and America’s security, guarantees than anything that happened in Brussels, for example. So I think there are a number of reasons why we should look at and, reevaluate the political means we have. I think Europe in many ways wanted to depoliticize the continent. That’s to say to the people of European nations, “Your political judgment is not that important anymore, that we in Brussels can decide how the rest of you live. And all you can go on living a very comfortable, peaceful life and don’t worry about government or politics.” And that’s not the way Europe has ever been. I think it’s important that European nations stand up for themselves and express themselves. And Europe is not like the United States. You can’t just cobble together 50 states and create a new people so easily.
These are ancient countries, ancient nations that have their own way of doing things and I think Europe is much richer when that diversity is present, rather than if we make it all the same.
Will The Rise of Le Pen Further Fracture the European Union?
(I): Now in France with Le Pen is beginning to be a big power and many people are beginning to feel that if a party leader like Le Pen becomes more powerful, than the European Union will fall apart in the near future. But what do you think about it?
Mr Jayabalan: Yeah, perhaps. You haveelections in France coming up. We have elections in Germany coming up. The Italian government is under strain because of a Constitutional referendum about the Senate,the current government, the Renzi government, has put its survival on the line with the referendum. So again it comes down to what is government for, what our politicians are supposed to be doing, and since Catholic social teaching is the field I know best, it comes down to the church and politics, according to which all human beings are supposed to contribute to the common good.I don’t think most Europeans feel that the European Union, or that the way they live under the European Union, is contributing to the common good. They don’t feel part of this project. They feel they’re being told what to do rather than really participating in it, and again it’s part of that whole nanny state bureaucratic administrative, corporate capitalists way of governing and this is something that the Progressives left has wanted for a long time. It’s tried to placate everyone’s rambunctiousness and ambitions in the name of equality. And human beings again are not, they want more than that, more than just material equality and peace and security. They want to advance; we want to do things that reflect more noble aspirations.
The European Union Is Under Serious Strain
(I): So do you sense the sense of crisis is spreading throughout Europe over this
Mr Jayabalan: Yeah, falling apart might be too strong a term, but I think it’s under some serious strain because again what is the point of all these institutions in Brussels if everyday Europeans are not advancing.They don’t perceive themselves to be advancing. The big strain at the moment is of course immigration coming from North Africa and the Middle East by way of Turkey. And
so it looks like Turkey’s the country that would like to be part of
Europe, but isn’t part of Europe culturally, historically. It is a huge population that says, “You know you should let us in, and we’re willing to cause all kinds of trouble with immigrants if you don’t let us in”, and again Europe seems to have very little self-respect when it comes to dealing with these issues and really doesn’t seem to know what to do.
(I): Seems to have a little respect?
Mr Jayabalan: Self-respect, like guarding its own borders.
(I): So you need Trump?
Mr Jayabalan: Well I think you have people like Orban inHungary and in other places that say,, “Enough is enough”, when it comes to this. “We don’t have to sit here and take this anymore.” So again there’s an element of human pride in politics; there’s a healthy form of this pride and self-assertion that’s there. I’d rather see them deal with this now because what we know in European politics, historically, is that they often wait until social problems cannot be so easily resolved and they blow up into a major conflict, and I think it’s probably easier to deal with these things now before more extreme parties come in to the government. It’s much easier, but again it’s a failure of the elites, a failure of government officials who don’t seem to understand what happens when you allow migrants to come into the country virtually unchecked, and none of these migrants seem to be living in places where the government leaders are, but in, less advanced area or suburbs of the great European capitals – not where the rich and powerful live. So who are the ones threatened by this: the middle classes, the working classes, those who are already insecure so this adds another factor to these kind of populist uprisings as we call them.
European Countries Need to Find Their Confidence
(I): Yeah. So do you have any specific ideas on solving this difficult issue, this migrant issue?
Mr Jayabalan: Sure, I think there are all kinds of ways you can solve it. You can start cracking down on the human traffickers; you can start taking some of the boats out in North Africa instead of waiting for them to launch; you could enforce the borders with Turkey much more strictly if you look at the border patrols; you could negotiate with the governments. I mention that Turkey is playing hardball when it comes to letting immigrants through, and Europe has to act like it has some leverage over these situations, which it does. Turkey’s reliant on Europe as much as Europe needs Turkey to help with migration. It should show these other countries who’s boss. But Europeans have lost so much self-confidence since at least the end of the Second World War, and perhaps even before that when Europe ruled the world, more or less they’ve been told that they did it for racist or sexist motives or Christian imperialism was the reason for this. So as well as a result they’ve been browbeaten, intimidated into keeping quiet and they need to find a way to say that the world [is] a much better place because of European civilization.
(I): So which country takes the lead with this issue?
Mr Jayabalan: Well I think Germany is the biggest and most powerful, and therefore most likely to, but the Germans have their own problems historically when taking the lead. But France, Germany, I think every country has its sovereign rights and they should be able to express them without necessarily leading to another world war in Europe.
Why Do We Need To Have Freedom And Liberty?
(I): Why d you think we need to have freedom and liberty?
Mr Jayabalan: Why?
(I): In the first place.
Mr Jayabalan: I think it’s partly because of the way we’re created. Try taking away anybody’s liberty and you’ll see how they react. They don’t like being told necessarily what to do.
(I): Because we are given free will?
Mr Jayabalan: We’re given it… its part of our makeup. It’s the way human beings are put together, to be able to exercise their own judgment. You see this with a child. If you look at a two-year-old, it’s all will and they have to learn to exercise their will in a responsible way, but at some point they don’t like being told what to do; they don’t like being held all the time; they want to do things on their own. That’s part of the reflection of human freedom, but in even a more advanced way,
human beings feel like they can cooperate much more freely, much more effectively, I should put it, when they’re free; but they are able to know to some degree what’s good for them, maybe not to a complete degree, but that they are better off when they associate freely without coercion and without somebody watching over them all the time.
What Role Should Religion Play In A Free Society?
(I): So my initial question, is it okay? What kind of role should religion play in a free society?
Mr Jayabalan: Well I think it’s enough to ask religion, I mean respect the rights of religions to
exercise freely as a reflection of human nature, that human beings tend to be religious, even if a individual decides not to be religious, that’s also a religious choice in a way, but in the end it’s a reflection of human nature that human beings historically and by nature tend to look for ways of explaining why the world is the way it is, why we have a purpose in life, that there’s some goal to life, something they’re working towards.To try to stamp out religion, or to privatize religion leads again to a truncated society, somehow it’s not fully a human society because you’re taking part of human nature away or you’re ignoring it.
Religion actually does a lot of good for human beings and society, not only when it comes to worship but all the social activities that they go with religion; it brings families together; it brings communities together, healthcare education, all the things that religions have done historically are good things, but if you can do it within frame where religions don’t go to war with each other, this is the important thing, that they don’t make their differences become all important to the degree that societies and religions are set to clash. So it requires a framework, a framework in which we respect and tolerate religious differences without allowing any one of them to dominate over others, and to say that even if you cannot agree on religious matters, there are certain rules you have to play by in a society and that means not persecuting and denigrating religions in a way that creates conflict.
(I): Thank you thank you so much
Mr Jayabalan: You’re welcome