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Kudlow, Unplugged

I like these Mexicans. They go to Catholic Church; They work hard; They’re learning English and they will eventually create a new blue-collar middle class.

Yes, I do worship at the high church of GDP. But I also worship at the high church of Catholic Mass. And therefore I’m able to combine supply-side economics with the teachings of Catholic humanitarianism. ~Larry Kudlow

Kudlow is quite the humanitarian. He has not seen a war he didn’t think was good for America and, more importantly, good for the stock market. Kudlow is so very humanitarian that he welcomes the creation of an exploited underclass. I don’t know for sure where Larry the Humanitarian stands on the abuse of prisoners and torture, but I suspect he is especially humanitarian when it comes to inflicting pain on prisoners–at least as humanitarian as he has been in cheering on the devastation of whole nations. He is so painfully humanitarian (his heart, look how it bleeds!) that he sees nothing amiss in comparing a border security fence with the Berlin Wall–the one designed to keep unwanted people out, the other to keep enslaved people in–because he literally cannot understand the difference between the two. To limit the “free movement of labour” is the same as commie oppression. That is what your stereotypical pro-immigration “conservative” believes. One wonders, incidentally, if he thinks Israel’s security barrier is a new Berlin Wall–I’m going to guess that he doesn’t agree with that comparison.

Here’s the main problem I have with the rhetoric of the people who keep pointing to the Catholicism of Mexican immigrants as if that were some kind of free pass for them (besides being based on the strange and entirely unproven assumption that Mexican Catholicism is as amenable to American political and cultural values as European Catholicism could come to be over time): the people who use the Catholicism of Mexicans and other Latin Americans as the rhetorical club with which to beat restrictionists also invariably happen to be the same people who think the freedom of movement across borders, a flood of cheap labour and maximising of GDP are the things that are most important in determining immigration policy. In other words, most of the people, including the Catholics, who are thrilled to see more Catholics crossing the border illegally are typically also the people who would be thrilled to see them cross the border if they were atheists, Muslims or Shintoists, because they are making these determinations primarily on economic grounds and have clearly made economic values their priority. I bet millions of Muslim labourers wouldn’t trouble Larry one bit. After all, we know where Larry stands on hateful “Islamophobia”–he’s against it, especially when it might bar the way to glorious international trade arrangements.

It is useful to them that the labourers in question are often Catholic, whether nominal or not, but it would not matter a whit to these people what religion they practiced so long as they lent their aid to building the Temple of GDP. It is also a sentimental ploy to tap into Catholic memories about past anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant prejudice in the 19th century as a way of mobilising Catholic America against the enforcement of immigration law and the control of the borders. It is manifestly cynical for the most part, but few are bold enough to hold up their cynicism for the world to see as Kudlow is.

But at least Kudlow holds up the glaring contradiction of his two loyalties for all to see. He doesn’t even hesitate to embrace the language of “worship” to express his economic desires. I have long held Kudlow up as a kind of walking caricature of the money-obsessed conservative, but that is because he plays to the stereotype so perfectly that it is impossible not to think of him when trying to imagine what such a person would be like.

“Yes, I worship at the altar of Mammon. But I also worship at the altar of God,” the man says to us, “And therefore I’m able to combine Mammon with the teachings of Christ.” What was it that Someone Important said about two masters? It’s a bit fuzzy, but it was something about not being able to have two. So Kudlow has fortunately declared very openly which one he serves. Give him credit for being at least somewhat more forthright than all of the conservatives who say, “But I’m not a materialist! Look, I go to church!” Instead Larry preaches a new gospel: “I’m a materialist because I go to church!”

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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