PDQ Bach
Rainn Wilson on Life’s Big Questions

Tim Kaine and Social Economics

By Jonathan B. Wight

KaineHillary Clinton has selected Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate.

Kaine has held lots of jobs around here—mayor, law professor and leadership professor at my university, and now senator. Kaine is immensely popular for his devotion to integrity and transparency in the public process. He is also a really nice guy.

Kaine’s relevance to this blog is that he grew up absorbing Catholic social thought teachings.  These teachings were likely instrumental in the formation of the Association for Social Economics, which was created in 1941 by Jesuits Thomas Divine and Bernard William Dempsey (originally called the Catholic Economic Association).

I first encountered Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin’s radical Catholic teachings from the 1930s when I spent a year after college doing “social justice” work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC).  I lived in a commune of recent college graduates who worked in inner city schools, ran a bank for hobos, and did legal work for indigents.

Kaine, who like me has his undergraduate degree in economics, spent nine months in Honduras as a volunteer with the JVC helping in a Jesuit missionary school. 

My own time as a JVC volunteer was immensely important to my future graduate work in economics. That experience put me in touch with poor people, but much more than that, with a perspective of openness to the non-homo-economicus way of thinking. That is, there is a way to live that allows one to relate to others outside the purely transactional economic way of thinking. These ideas were handholds to sanity as my fellow graduate students and I struggled with the narrow perspective of neoclassical economics in the mid-1970s. 

Kaine embodies many positive qualities, including his empathy and his level-headedness, which is aided by his religious devotion and prayer.  In terms of policy making he is in favor of markets and trade with some regulations; he personally opposes abortion but considers it a private matter of conscience. He has fought in Congress to limit the power of presidents to wage war without authority.

What I like most about Kaine is that he is pretty much an average guy, who through hard work, diligence, and focus has risen above the pack. If incremental improvements with stability are the hallmarks of your developmental philosophy, then Kaine is your candidate. If, on the other hand, you believe that a revolution is needed, you had better pick Trump.

Seeing the ravages of caudillo (big man) authoritarian politics in many Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern countries, it is refreshing to have the option of voting for someone who is competent, humble, honest, and dedicated to the democratic process.


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