Wesley J. Smith, author and bioethicist, wrote nearly two decades ago, “Practitioners of bioethics say who should live, and who should die.” Smith cautioned of an alarming and insidious trend within the modern bioethics’ movement known as “personhood theory.” He described how some bioethicists were asserting that what matters “morally” is not that one is “human,” but that one has a legal status as a “person.”
What makes someone a legal person with human rights worth respecting? One must possess, those bioethicists argued, mental competencies, such as “self-awareness” or having the ability to “engage in rational behavior.”
Consequently, those who did not fit this criterion would fall into the category of being defined as a human “non-person.” These “non-persons” would include embryos, the unborn child, infants (up to the first few years of life), those with Alzheimer’s disease, cognitively disabled individuals, and individuals with significant developmental disabilities. Indeed, if one fit the definition of being a human “non-person,” a philosophical determination, then bioethicists would accordingly be able to shape the social, cultural, judicial, and medical criteria for any one person enjoying basic human rights—including the right to life itself.
Peter Singer is perhaps the most infamous of this bioethical cohort. In 1998, Singer was appointed to Princeton University’s Professorship of Bioethics and has since served as a prominent advocate for personhood theory. His advocacy of the notion of human “non-persons” has been attractive to many and he enjoys a sort of celebrity status among bioethicists and ethicists generally.Today, personhood theory is part of ethics taught in countless colleges, and it’s having a significant impact on those most vulnerable to its dehumanizing logic.
It was not long ago, for instance, that to intentionally starve and dehydrate someone to death for any reason would have been thought of as barbaric and inhumane. Yet, Terri Schiavo, my sister, became just one of the more prominent of the countless victims of Peter Singer’s logic. Terri lived with a brain injury and was cognitively disabled, but her husband and, ultimately, judicial decision makers came to accept that her life lacked sufficient value to continue feeding her. Take note of this 2005 exchange between Smith and Professor Bill Allen, bioethicist at the University of Florida, debating Terri’s life:
Wesley Smith: “Bill, do you think Terri is a person?”
Bill Allen: “No, I do not. I think having awareness is an essential criterion for personhood.”
Fast forward to 2014: An article by The College Fix’s Mairead McArdle exposed “anecdotal evidence” that more college students support post-birth abortion, suggesting that children up to 5-years-old could be put to death because they are not sufficiently “self-aware” and thus they do not constitute “persons.”
In 2018, a video surfaced of a University of Tennessee Knoxville student who rationalized support for infanticide of two-year-olds based on the fact that the child is not sufficiently “sentient.” The student offered that “without communication, we have no way of knowing if you are sentient or not. It’s no different than this tree. It’s alive, but is it sentient? I don’t know. I cannot communicate with it.”
Can we really accept that we are, at any time, simply one accident away from being deemed by an overzealous bioethicist a “human nonperson” who unwillingly forfeits basic human rights?
Tone is the immediate expression of values, and the tone characteristic of abortion advocates is that of the sneer. And for a natural reason: their position is reductionist, value-denying. It intentionally minimizes the worth of the incipient human life; and let us bear in mind that for a long while it minimized the facts themselves. It is a prejudice, in the fundamental sense that it springs from the will in advance of any knowledge; it is not a conclusion from the available evidence, nor a perplexity caused by inordinate communion with complexities …
A very different tone was sounded by Newsweek in its January 11, 1982 cover story “How Life Begins.” Written by Sharon Begley, it began:
“If newborns could remember and speak, they would emerge from the womb carrying tales as wondrous as Homer’s. They would describe the fury of conception and the sinuous choreography of nerve cells, billions of them dancing pas de deux to make connections that infuse mere matter with consciousness. They would recount how the amorphous glob of an arm bud grows into the fine structure of fingers agile enough to play a polonaise. They would tell of cells swarming out of the nascent spinal cord to colonize far reaches of the embryo, helping to form face, head and glands. The explosion of such complexity and order — a heart that beats, legs that run and a brain powerful enough to contemplate its own origins –seems like a miracle. It is as if a single dab of white paint turned into the multicolored splendor of the Sistine ceiling.”
Miss Begley went on to speak of the abortion question as “scientifically unanswerable,” and yet she implicitly answered it herself, in her accents of stunned wonder. The very facts of fetal development, far from inducing value-free detachment, inspired her to remarkable eloquence.
Her whole article, though merely descriptive, was suffused with the reverence of a mind free of self-interest and absorbed by the unfolding reality before it. Reading it one felt that rare and sublime sensation of beholding, of sharing the intellect’s love of its object. “The five-week embryo, only one-third of an inch long, is a marvel of miniaturization: limb buds are sending out shoots whose dimples mark the nascent hands and feet, and the hindbrain has grown stalked eye cups.”
Stalked eye cups! This is not a “pretty” description, but an enthralled one, and it takes a certain nerve to insist, in the face of such data, that description has no bearing on prescription, or that the thing described is no more than a “blob of protoplasm.”
And we allow such things to be killed. They are destined to be men and women; they are what we once were. Is not our indifference to them, our official denial of our kinship with them, a judgment on ourselves?
As if to balance the undeniable import of Miss Begley’s article with a kind of moral disclaimer, Newsweek supplemented it with a shorter piece titled “But Is It a Person?”
“It is unquestionably alive,” wrote Jerry Adler, “a unique entity . . .” But, he continued, “The question is one for philosophers, not scientists; . . . the problem is not determining when ‘actual human life’ begins, but when the value of that life begins to outweigh other considerations, such as the health, or even the happiness, of the mother. And on that question, science is silent.”
From the heights to the depths. This was pretty near absurdity. Science, in the sense of physical analysis, is silent on every moral question, for the simple reason that science is not ethics.
We’ve got to recapture the capacity to conceive of the youngest members of the human family in the true and epic terms that Sharon Begley did in her Newsweek piece; in the sense of human beings emerging into the world, who though lacking autonomy and self sufficiency and independence for years upon years nonetheless have already are adventurers with “tales as wondrous as Homer’s.” Thinking in this way might help get the rest of us out of ourselves, and help get us thinking about more than our own ego and our own concerns and instead be content simply to be in the presence of the extraordinariness of others in the sense that C.S. Lewis invites us to think of others:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
Last year I wrote about Newsweek’s 1975 cover on “Abortion and the Law,” featuring a sixteen week old child on its cover. I asked rhetorically, “Do we know less in 2018 than what Newsweek knew in 1975?” What the Newsweek cover underscores is that we have known since before Roe v. Wade that what develops in the womb is a human being; a member of the human family.
At the March for Life a few weeks ago, I saw a woman who had the Life magazine cover below blown up onto a placard. Life ran this cover story featuring a human child at 18 weeks a full decade prior to that Newsweek cover. Life showed America the human child in the womb in vivid detail some eight years prior to seven men on the U.S. Supreme Court handing down Roe and what became in practice an unlimited right to end developing human life:
In Roe, those seven Supreme Court justices describe the Texas law they’re striking:
Texas urges that, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception. We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.”
It’s as true today as it was when Life ran this cover story in April 1965 that what confronts us are not medical or scientific questions but are, rather, political, cultural, and social questions about whether we’re willing to support mothers facing unexpected pregnancies with life-affirming choices, and whether we are interested in protecting human life at every age and in every circumstance. If America can look at a member of the human family, as we did collectively with Life’s April 1965 cover, and later conclude Yes, abortion is an acceptable social policy and at the same time pretend that the “question of when life begins” is simply too difficult to resolve while simultaneously making it moot by introducing abortion, then we can dehumanize in a literal sense any other human individual or community—aged, disabled, psychologically unwell, whatever.
It is the corrosive and dehumanizing logic at the heart of Roe that lets someone like Gov. Andrew Cuomo celebrate the just-legalized violent ending of human life up to the very moment of birth in New York, or Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran to call for abortion even as a woman is in labor.
This is not close to the only issue that Americans should engage with, but it is absolutely a moral and political issue that requires having the courage to choose a side and state forthrightly and explicitly what you endorse.
Christine Rousselle reports on Sen. Ben Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, his response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legalization of abortion in New York up to birth and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed bill which would have allowed abortion throughout pregnancy, including for women actively in labor:
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) has announced that he will introduce the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the Senate on Monday, and is calling for a voice vote to pass the measure.
Sasse announced on Thursday that he is beginning the Rule 14 process, which would bring the bill directly to the Senate floor and bypass the normal committee consideration of a piece of legislation. He said that he hopes his bill will be passed by a unanimous voice vote.
“On Monday evening, I’m going to be asking unanimous consent–for senators to come to the floor,” he said. “I’m going to ask all 100 senators to come to the floor and be against infanticide. This shouldn’t be complicated.”
Sasse started his floor speech by referencing the “morally repugnant” comments made on Wednesday by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D). In a discussion on a WTOP radio show, Northam addressed questions regarding a bill that would have allowed abortion throughout an entire pregnancy in the state, even when a woman had already gone into labor.
“The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” he said.
The proposed bill was tabled later that day, amid an outpouring of criticism over the remarks by Northam and comments by the bill’s sponsor, Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax). …
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act would penalize doctors and medical professionals who do not provide medical care to infants who survive abortions. The bill is co-sponsored by more than three dozen Republican senators.
The House version of the bill was introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and has 131 co-sponsors, including one Democrat, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL).
Although Sasse emphasized that a voice vote should not be complicated, there is a significant chance the bill will run into opposition. When the House of Representatives voted on their version of the bill in January 2018, all but five Democrats voted against it.
Cases where infants have survived late-term abortions are rare, but do occur. Pro-life activist Gianna Jessen was born in an abortion clinic following a failed saline abortion attempt when her mother was 30 weeks pregnant.
In 2013, Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing babies who had survived abortion attempts at his clinic, as well as one count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose in 2009. He is now serving several life sentences.
Ben Sasse was right earlier this week in saying, “I don’t care what party you’re from—if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.” And he’s right today in saying that supporting the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act shouldn’t “take any political courage.” But it will.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade is as controversial today as when it was first decided. … It is unsettled today for numerous reasons, but three stand out: the extreme scope of the court’s nationwide legalization of abortion; the inherent defects that the Supreme Court recklessly built into Roe; and the persistent pressure of the cause for life year after year, which has aggravated Roe’s contradictions.
Roe’s abrupt legalization of abortion throughout America ignited the campaign against it — but successfully overturning Roe will require understanding and emphasizing the defects of the decision. Many of these defects are hidden below the surface of the court’s opinions in Roe and the important companion case, Doe v. Bolton, which was decided the same day. Neither Roe nor Doe had any trial or evidentiary record about abortion, its risks or its implications. Without such evidence, the justices floundered in their understanding of basic scientific and legal questions, and stumbled into a number of egregious mistakes:
1. The justices ignored our legal heritage of protecting the lives of developing human beings to the extent allowed by medical knowledge. …
2. The justices overlooked the growing science of fetology that was underway. Well-documented briefs were filed showing the growing medical data on fetal development. Dorothy Beasley, the attorney representing Georgia in Doe v. Bolton, told the justices in December 1971 that “the State has a greater obligation to protect that fetal life” than ever before. “There are more methods now that can be used to protect it,” she added, “including blood transfusions and surgery while it’s still in the womb.”
Unfortunately, Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority opinion in Roe casually dismissed the science and “the well-known facts of fetal development,” and instead stated, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” …
3. Roe had no foundation in precedent, as numerous legal scholars have recognized. …
4. The justices relied on falsehoods about the relative safety of abortion. Anxious for anything that would support their decision, they cited unreliable data about abortion safety from Soviet Bloc countries dating back to the 1950s. Despite the lack of evidence, the justices adopted a mantra — that abortion was safer than childbirth — and that premise shaped major planks of Roe and Doe, including broad deference to abortion providers. …
5. The justices ignored a critical distinction about personhood: Whether or not he or she was recognized as a constitutional “person” and specifically protected against the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, the unborn child was recognized as a human being and increasingly protected against private action by property, tort and criminal law.
Through the briefs and oral arguments, the justices were informed about legal developments that protected the unborn child from conception. As one federal court wrote in 1946, “From the viewpoint of the civil law and the law of property, a child en ventre sa mere [in the mother’s womb] is not only regarded as a human being but as such from the moment of conception — which it is in fact.” …
6. The justices arbitrarily chose fetal viability as the measure of legal protection, despite the fact that viability was not historically the standard of fetal protection. Listen to the original oral arguments in Roe and Doeat www.oyez.org: The word “viability” was never mentioned once in four hours of argument. No party or organization urged the court to extend the abortion “right” to viability or beyond. …
7. The companion case of Doe v. Bolton, decided with Roe, radically expanded the “abortion right” throughout pregnancy. The court required the 50 states to allow abortion “where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” At the same time, it defined the “health” exception as “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.” Thus, Roe and Doe set the United States apart as 1 of only 4 nations (of the nearly 200 across the globe) that allows abortion for any reason after fetal viability, and 1 of 7 nations that allows abortion for any reason after 20 weeks.
In the years since Roe v. Wade, obstetric ultrasound machines and other medical and technological developments have permanently changed public understanding about fetal development. Year after year, states have enacted more comprehensive legal protection of the unborn, from conception, in prenatal injury law, wrongful death law and fetal homicide law. …
Abortion is an elective procedure, and in the vast majority of cases it is chosen for socioeconomic reasons. It is not “health care.” Unsafe, a 2016 report by Americans United for Life, documented that 227 abortion providers in 32 states were cited for more than 1,400 health and safety deficiencies between 2008 and 2016. …
In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a majority of the court abandoned the false historical rationale for abortion in Roe but replaced it with the claim that American women need abortion for equal opportunity in society (“reliance interests”). But that claim, too, was flimsy, and factual and legal changes are challenging the court’s assumptions.
Now, for the first time in a quarter century, the court does not have a majority of justices who are invested in Roe as their legacy. Substantial momentum against this legacy has been built through the many efforts in the cause for life, including state legislation, public education and compassionate services to women and their children. As this momentum is reinforced by political victories and pro-life work, expectations are increasing that Roe’s days are numbered.
Clarke Forsythe’s “Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade” tells the full story of Roe and the seven men who imposed unlimited abortion in every state.
Ben Sixsmith write that conservatives would do well to drop their scorn for environmental and conservationist issues. We don’t need to subscribe to anthropogenic climate change to recognize that care and stewardship of the natural world is inherently a conservative impulse:
Mentioning the environment to a conservative is liable to elicit a similar response that mentioning political correctness would from a left-winger: a slight raising of the eyebrows, a slight exhalation of breath and, perhaps, a folding of the arms or tapping of the feet. It smells—it positively stinks—of out-group affiliation. The environment? That’s what those dreadful latté sipping, lentil eating, flip-flop wearing leftists talk about. Are you sure you’re in the right place?
It did not have to be this way. Up until the later decades of the twentieth century, attitudes towards the environment did not fall along tribal lines. Conservationists, like President Theodore Roosevelt, were often conservatives. As environmental causes, like the campaigns against DDT and air pollution, gathered storm in the 1970s, however, conservative were dismayed by the apparent tendencies towards big government and internationalism in addressing them. …
Yet conservative premises could have lent themselves to environmentalism. Conservatives believe—or ought to believe—in low time preferences, prudence and restraint, the fragility of order, and the love of home. … Yes, free market capitalism has enabled growth and innovation, but it is also a force for presentism, insecurity and greed. …
All of us hope to enjoy our lives, of course, but much of what we do to help our fellow men, our children, and our children’s children involves sacrificing our immediate enjoyment for the sake of their interests.
I am not suggesting that the Right has to accept all IPCC predictions, or reject the use of fossil fuels in principle, or eat organic food, or listen to folk music. These are questions that thoughtful people can debate. Yet conservatives—and our unruly cousins, libertarians—must stop embracing overly convenient criticism of mainstream science, and avoid getting drunk off idealistic optimism, and resist the indolent desire to wish environmental challenges away. Our higher virtues of order, prudence, restraint, and what Roger Scruton calls “oikophilia” (the love of home) will be respected and not betrayed if we do so.
Daniel Mahoney’s new book, The Idol of Our Age, offers a sharp indictment of the humanitarianism that has become the implicit faith of our time.
He begins with the thought of Auguste Comte, who created a “rational” religion of humanity that would bring humanity “from a theological and military order to a scientific and industrial one.” in which there would be no separation between men. Comte taught that the arc of history inexorably bends toward the unification of nations and cultures. What matters most is the intrinsically good human nature that we all share, not the political, cultural, or religious distinctions that differentiate us.
Humanitarianism may seem like the true form of Christianity and the fulfillment of classical philosophy, but it differs from them in three significant ways.
First, it declares that there is nothing transcending human nature. It lowers the horizon for human contemplation and action to understanding and sympathizing with our fellow human beings. But, as Mahoney argues, “what is highest in man finds its ultimate source in what is higher than man. …
Second, humanitarianism sees human nature as evolving and perfectible, not a boundary that our desires and aspirations must learn to respect. …
Third, humanitarianism is scandalized by the particular. It exalts humanity in general and believes that nations will pass away. In its Christian variety, it emphasizes moral principles over the person of Jesus Christ. But particularity is necessary to finite human existence. We do not live in an abstract “family” or “humanity;” we live in our own family and our own nation. As Mahoney writes, these particularities mediate our understanding of more general concepts: “human beings experience common humanity only in the meeting of diverse human and spiritual affirmations and propositions that arise from the concrete human communities in which we live.”
I’m reading Alan Jacobs’s “The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis,” which addresses itself to the problem of post-World War II humanitarianism as an end in itself, combined with a technocracy capable of governing but incapable of inquisitiveness about the essential purpose and telos of human beings.
On Friday morning, a few hours before the start of the March for Life—the 46th-annual event held to commemorate the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and to call for its repeal—banners waved above the heads of some 60 people gathered on the wet, slushy grounds of the National Mall. Consistent Life Network: … End Abortion, End Poverty, End Racism, End War, read one. Secular Pro-Life: For the embryology textbook tells me so, read another—a sly riff on the “for the Bible tells me so” refrain of the Christian hymn “Jesus Loves Me.” Protesters carrying signs (Destroy the patriarchy, not the preborn) and wearing buttons (War is not pro-life) stood in the cold listening as a teal-haired atheist with a nose ring addressed the crowd that had gathered: Why, she asked, if it is wrong to kill a person who’d been born already, would it be okay to kill a person who hadn’t yet?
The #ProScienceProLife meet-up, this year’s title for the gathering held annually ahead of the March for Life, served as a summit of sorts for groups such as Rehumanize International, the Consistent Life Network, Secular Pro-life, and Democrats for Life of America. These groups espouse something called the “consistent life” or “whole life” ethic—the belief that human life should be protected from violence and killing from the moment of conception onwards. So while these groups often protest abortion, they also protest police brutality, torture, war, human trafficking, and the separation of immigrant families.
The meet-up brings together some of the nontraditional pro-life groups at the march—that is, the nonconservative and nonreligious organizations—to hear a slate of speeches, many of them from nonreligious or left-leaning pro-life leaders. But Rehumanize International’s communications director, Herb Geraghty, takes care to explain that these aren’t meant to be counterprogramming efforts: “When we host these meet-ups, we’re not protesting the March for Life,” he says. He describes these events and the presentations given at them as supplementary to the main rally. …
But despite what the popular narrative might suggest—that the pro-life side of the abortion debate is conservative and the pro-choice side is liberal, and the two sides don’t like each other—secular and left-leaning pro-lifers I spoke with said they felt welcome at the March for Life, and that most of the time they feel welcome in the pro-life movement in general, too.
… Aimee Murphy, the executive director of Rehumanize International … told me she was heartened by the theme chosen for this year’s March for Life, “Unique From Day One: Pro-life Is Pro-science.” … The lineup of speakers did … include an equal number of Republican politicians and Democratic politicians this year (two each)—which Bill Samuel, the former president of the Consistent Life Network, sees as a positive development. Samuel, 71, has been attending the March for Life for more than 15 years, and he credits the march’s current leadership with making nonconservative and nonreligious pro-life groups feel welcome at the event.
I met Aimee Murphy at Notre Dame last summer as a fellow participant in the Center for Ethics & Culture’s Vita Institute, and appreciate what she’s doing with Rehumanize International.
I joined what was probably 200,000 or so today for the 46th March for Life in Washington, DC. Started the day with a breakfast with Democrats for Life, reconnoitered at The Willard hotel and joined the growing crowds on the mall. After the march, headed to the Americans United for Life reception on Capitol Hill.
In the evening, we headed to the National Press Club for a Notre Dame-hosted reception, and ended up finishing the night off with friends at the Dubliner.
Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, has died. Art Carey and Erin Arvedlund report:
John C. Bogle, 89, who revolutionized the way Americans save for the future, championed the interests of the small investor, and railed against corporate greed and the excesses of Wall Street, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Bryn Mawr, his family confirmed.
Mr. Bogle, a chipper and unpretentious man who invited everyone to call him “Jack,” was founder and for many years chairman of the Vanguard Group, the Malvern-based mutual-fund company, where he pioneered low-cost, low-fee investing and mutual funds tied to stock-market indexes. These innovations, reviled and ridiculed at first, enabled millions of ordinary Americans to build wealth to buy a home, pay for college, and retire comfortably.
Along the way, Vanguard, which Mr. Bogle launched in 1974, became a titan in the financial-services industry, with 16,600 employees and over $5 trillion in assets by the end of 2018, and Mr. Bogle earned a reputation as not only an investing sage but a maverick whose integrity and old-fashioned values set an example that many admired and few could match.
“Jack could have been a multibillionaire on a par with Gates and Buffett,” said William Bernstein, an Oregon investment manager and author of 12 books on finance and economic history. Instead, he turned his company into one owned by its mutual funds, and in turn their investors, “that exists to provide its customers the lowest price. He basically chose to forgo an enormous fortune to do something right for millions of people. I don’t know any other story like it in American business history.” …
While Mr. Bogle was facile with numbers, he was much less interested in counting than in what counts, and his intellectual range was broad. He revered language, history, poetry, and classical wisdom, and frequently amazed and delighted people by reciting long passages of verse. …
Mr. Bogle had hoped that the Vanguard model — “structurally correct, mathematically correct, and ethically correct” — would goad other investment firms to give customers a fairer shake. While index funds have become widely popular, Vanguard’s competitors often have been less than keen about following the company’s penny-pinching lead. …
When he was not touting the advantages of the Vanguard mode of investing, Mr. Bogle, a self-proclaimed “battler by nature,” was lambasting his professional brethren for “rank speculation,” reckless assumption of debt, “obscene” multimillion-dollar paychecks, and golden parachutes, and saying they had abdicated their duty as stewards in favor of self-interested salesmanship. …
Along the way, Mr. Bogle attracted his share of critics. He was called a communist, a Marxist, a Bolshevik, a Calvinist scold and zealot, a holier-than-thou traitor and subversive who was undermining the pillars of capitalism with un-American rants. Mr. Bogle characterized his pugnacious relationship with the financial industry as “a lover’s quarrel.” His mission, he said, was simple: to return capitalism, finance, and fund management to their roots in stewardship. …
A man who believed in the value of introspection and who was always questioning his own motives and behavior, Mr. Bogle sought to define what it means to lead a good life. It was not about wealth, power, fame and other conventional notions of success, he concluded.
“It’s about being a good husband, a good father, a good colleague, a good member of the community. Everything else pales by comparison. The accumulation of material goods is a waste — you can’t take them with you, anyway — and the waste is typified by our financial system. The essential message is, stop focusing on self and start thinking about service to others.”
When I was in Philadelphia this past weekend I happened at one point to be speaking with a Vanguard person, and asked about Jack Bogle. “He still comes into the office, still eats in the cafeteria with everyone else. He’s the most down-to-earth man.”
Jack Bogle forged Vanguard’s incredible reputation, and through index funds provided generations of average Americans the means to save and invest. My grandmother was one of those Vanguard disciples, and her frugality and farsightedness helped make possible a comfortable retirement for my grandparents and helped provide for the family over the years.
Antonio García Martinez reflected in light of Bogle’s death: “One of the key emptinesses at the core of modern secular liberalism is a convincing answer to the question: what is a good life? The ability to attain a felt (or acknowledged) dignity, irrespective of high or low material attainments, is an essential component of a sane society. The Greeks of course had their best minds wrestle with the question. We don’t dare even ask it anymore.”