Jeffrey Tucker on the new “white paper”: “a near total absence of clear thinking”

My friend Jeffrey Tucker knows more than his Gregorian chant.  Most of the readers here will know him from The Chant Cafe.  Did you know that Tucker also knows a thing or two about economics and that he is on the staff of Acton University each year?

Jeff has a commentary on Crisis about the new “white paper” from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which I ranted about here.

The New Vatican Document on Finance: Right Diagnosis, Deadly Cure
Jeffrey Tucker

Let’s say you go to the doctor with a pain in your gut, and the doctor very astutely discovers that you have been poisoned. He knows how and when it happened. He knows the precise kind of poison that victimized you. Then he gives your prescription: more poison in higher doses.

You would be at once grateful and alarmed.

This is roughly how I feel about the “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority,” a document [Can't we all just start calling it a "white paper"?] just issued by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Reading from the top down gave me a real charge. Some people at the Vatican have gotten the message about the dangers of the fiat money system that generates unlimited amount of credit, and even traced it all to the monetary reforms of 40 years ago.

In recent decades, it was the banks that extended credit, which generated money, which in turn sought a further expansion of credit. In this way, the economic system was driven towards an inflationary spiral that inevitably encountered a limit in the risk that credit institutions could accept. They faced the ultimate danger of bankruptcy, with negative consequences for the entire economic and financial system.

Exactly. The dollar was once based in gold, which provides a physical limit to the expansion of credit. All bills had to be paid. The government was limited. The banking system was a real business, not a socialist enterprise that experienced unlimited bailouts. Credit went to the creditworthy. Those who issued fake money paid a price.

Under a gold standard, there can be no creation of money that is not redeemable in something real. This automatically provides a check on both banks and governments — and therefore producers and consumers as well. An over-expansion leads to gold outflows and a restriction on credit expansion at home, as inevitably as night follows day. Therefore you have to live within your means. The bills have to be paid by real stuff.

Then President Nixon decided one day that we weren’t sending our gold anywhere. With that move, he ended the basis of the monetary system that had ruled the governments and banking systems since the ancient world. Every problem we’ve had since — inflation, bubbles, credit addiction, bank racketeering – can be traced to this one act. (This is not to say that Bretton Woods was perfect; what we really need is a system of full, domestic convertibility on demand and in real coins.)

That the Vatican gets this, or seems to, is a very good sign.

What’s more, credit is as addictive as any drug:

After World War II, national economies made progress, albeit with enormous sacrifices for millions, indeed billions of people who, as producers and entrepreneurs on the one hand and as savers and consumers on the other, had put their confidence in a regular and progressive expansion of money supply and investment in line with opportunities for real growth of the economy.

Everyone is addicted to paper. Consumers love it. Producers live on it. Competition drives everyone to partake. The real world fades and the make-believe world of paper profits rules the day. This is a false hope. It is like a house built on sand.

[... I'll cut some of this so you'll also read over there and to keep this short.  Believe me, it's worth it. ...]

It is on this basis that the document ["white paper" not part of the Magisterium] first begins its attack on “liberalist policies.” Now, hold on a minute here. There is nothing in old-fashioned liberalism (i.e., the free market) that endorses the “freedom” to issue paper forever and call it money. On the contrary, the free market is heavily regulated by a sound money regime. The only freedom banks have here is to operate as normal businesses. Those who expand without limit are going to die and those who maintain sound finance will thrive.[NB] Nonetheless, the document’s identification of loose credit with market liberty is the beginning of the end of the good sense here. From this point, we plunge straight away into a full endorsement of a world central bank, a world political authority, taxes on financial trading, and heavy regulations. The document doesn’t actually call for an end to the free market. On the contrary, it imagines that enlightened world planners will protect, guard, and even “create” what it calls “free and stable markets.”  [Yahhhh... right.]

This is beyond naive. It seems to illustrate a near total absence of clear thinking. Centralization of money and credit caused this problem. Centralization of political authority caused this problem. Why would anyone imagine that more centralization is therefore the answer? This approach takes a terrible situation and makes it much worse.  [This is rather along the lines of what I wrote: "National banks have, after all, done such a good job that we should now make the effort transnational!"]

Probably this document had many authors, one of whom gets the Austrian theory of the business cycle. He prevailed in the first section. Another author seems to know nothing about politics and power or the history of the problems of centralized states and central banking. He prevailed in the second section. [He is probably right.] Tragically, this document is music to the ears of the very institutions that are responsible for our current plight. The document might as well announce to the world: “Give the power and financial elites more power!”

What is the alternative? Sound money needs to be restored. Business and finance need to be subject to profit and loss. The bailouts must stop. The liquidations must be allowed to take place. Governments must be disciplined and controlled, and devolved to the smallest, local units. In other words, we need real free markets and subsidiarity. This is the only path to a responsibly regulated world. Otherwise, we are going to end up creating even more problems down the line.

The Vatican seems to be growing in intellectual sophistication over worldly affairs. Now it gets economic matters half right. Sadly, being half right on something this important can lead to permanent calamity. To return to the original metaphor, the patient should thank the doctor for discovering the illness, but flee the poisonous “cure.”

Excellent analysis.

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45 Responses to Jeffrey Tucker on the new “white paper”: “a near total absence of clear thinking”

  1. jlmorrell says:

    While Tucker is correct on a number of fronts such as the need for less centralization, the dangers of fiat money and increased application of the principle of subsidiarity, please save me from any of his Austrian economics nonsense. I’m so very tired of otherwise good Catholics attempting to pass off the School of Austrian Economics a la Von Mises and Rothbard as compatible with sound Catholic thought.

    [I guess that's a "no" vote for Jeffrey's article. And we're off to the races!]

  2. WaywardSailor says:

    ” Tragically, this document is music to the ears of the very institutions that are responsible for our current plight. The document might as well announce to the world: “Give the power and financial elites more power!”

    Exactly. The principal of subsidiarity plays into this how?

  3. catholicmidwest says:

    This reminds me of the papers that have been put out by the USCCB on various topics, like immigration, labor and national politics. Generally such papers are amazingly naive and silly. Very few laypeople really take them seriously and there’s a very good reason why. Bishops, including most churchmen in general, have no experience, training or demonstrated capacity for these things. To put it simply, they don’t know what they’re talking about, and it shows. Just because a man is a bishop, it certainly doesn’t make him an expert on absolutely everything, particularly non-religious things.

    Look: The Church’s job on earth is religious. This includes helping laypeople to form their consciences in order to be moral and honest, something priests and bishops have been trained to do. It does NOT include telling us how to implement what we find or telling us what we must do politically, socially or economically in the world. Running the spreadsheets and the polling booths and the households of this world is OUR vocation. We laypeople have the experience, training and capability to do these things. When the Church tries to do such things, history shows that their track record is worse than terrible, it’s abysmal.

    Moreover, the Church is supposed to be out there converting the world to Christianity and reinforcing Christianity where it’s already been the major world-view. They’re presently doing a pretty crappy job of that, so I would like to suggest that the Church concentrate on that a little harder if they have time on their hands, rather than wasting their time writing papers such as this one. On a smaller scale, this is consistent with my long-time view that the members of the USCCB shut up about economics and politics and start paying attention to their dioceses where they should be teaching basic Christianity. People are losing their grasp on that as we speak.

    PS. I’m no libertarian along the lines of Acton Institute, Ayn Rand and all that. I understand that some people are. I don’t think that the church should be meddling in that stuff either. It’s not their job, to be direct; they have other equally important work to do but it’s different work. Jeffrey Tucker, who’s a funny guy, and a pretty good musician I gather, having spent an afternoon with him once, is a layperson. So he can say things like this with a little more force. He is a libertarian, BTW. But then, we all have opinions and that’s a good thing.

  4. catholicmidwest says:

    BTW, the new bishop in Kalamazoo, my diocese, has been paying attention to his diocese,and it’s good. We have many new classes and programs which are getting a lot of attention from laypeople. Enrollments are very good. Among them, we have the new “Discovering Christ” series which is about basic Christianity, and it’s excellent. So this bishop is doing a great job so far.

  5. Front Pew View says:

    We need distributism.

  6. jlmorrell says:

    Very good recommendation, Front Pew View. Distributism is often derided as not being practical or possible in the postmodern world. I say nonsense. There are many good ways to encourage the wider distribution of productive property and free people from wage slavery.

  7. catholicmidwest says:

    No matter what kind of a theoretical distribution scheme you have, it’s not going to be perfect. This is the natural world, the flawed one, remember? The one that’s training us to appreciate heaven.

    I suggest we all come down off of our wonderful fluffy theory clouds now. It is what it is. We just need to get better at what we have and use our consciences a bit more. As laypeople, we know how. It just takes some time. Breathe deeply and do your real job, your own real job.

  8. muckemdanno says:

    How dare those “Austrian” economists base their economic beliefs on individual property rights and individual decision making, as per the 7th Commandment. In order to understand most of the parables of the New Testament, one must first accept the right to property…to wit:

    “And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” – Mt 20

    The socialists of the left or of the right insist on stealing from the rich to give to the poor, or stealing from the poor to give to the rich, in whichever central planning schemes they happen to come up with. I’ll rely on first principles, thank you.

    Catholic encyclopedia entry on property:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12462a.htm

  9. jlmorrell says:

    Catholic Midwest,

    While you are correct that the Church need not elucidate specific economic theories, it is necessary for the Church to teach authoritatively regarding the moral principles that must be upheld.

    It is then up to faithful Catholics to use these moral principles, especially regarding the truth about God and man, in the explication of sound economic theory. The traditional Catholic principles taught in encyclicals such as Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo Anno, among others, are not upheld in economic liberalism or the specific brand of Austrian economics that Mr. Tucker and others espouse. This should be made known to Catholics that may not know otherwise.

  10. jasoncpetty says:

    I am glad someone read that “Vatican” report. Just reading Mr. Tucker’s exposition of it wasted a valuable part of my life. My only experience was the manipulative RINO media monger’s (Matt Drudge) take on the article. So this quote–”In fact, one can see an emerging requirement for a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of ‘central world bank’ that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks”–becomes, on Drudge Report, “Vatican wants Global Public Authority & Central World Bank,” with a big picture of the pope, and the Reuters article it links to is entitled “Vatican Calls for ‘Central World Bank’ to Be Set Up.” Shameful. Where is a journalist? Just one?

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    jlmorrell,
    Yes, I understand that there are innocent (ignorant, gullible) people out there who are being misled by one or another forceful interpretations of economics that seem to have church approval because certain charismatic well-c0nnected people say that they do. People need to be reminded that just as movie stars may sell toothpaste even though they have no dentistry credentials, some churchmen may try to sell economic schemes even though they have no economic credentials. Let’s not be naive. Ordination is one of the sacraments, yes, but it doesn’t confer an automatic MBA or anything of the sort.

    If some0ne in the Vatican thinks these situations are imbalances, then perhaps they should just say so. Oh, well, I forgot, in Rome perhaps you don’t “just say” anything. LOL. Then we (out here) should take it for what it is. Perhaps what we laypeople can read from this is the message that we need to pay attention to morals as we administer the things proper to OUR vocation, which includes economics, politics, and all such things.

    jlmorrell,
    I understand and agree that it is within the purview of the church to teach morality, but proposing an international banking system with the involvement of the UN is a few thousand miles beyond that, if you want my real opinion. The church ought to stick with converting people to Christianity. Perhaps they are finding that too difficult and are looking for something easier to do? It doesn’t relieve them of the obligation. Just saying.

  12. mbutton says:

    I suspect if the congregation of divine worship issued a letter recommending the reimplementation of Altar rails and other traditional forms of liturgical edification, others here might not be so dismissive of official documents of the Roman Curia. I think the Holy Father knows full well the content of this document (considering it is exactly in the same vein as Caritas Veritate), and while Fr. Z is certainly right in calling a duck a duck and reminding everyone that this letter does not number among the Church’s Magisterium, we should all take its wisdom and recommendations under advisement.

  13. catholicmidwest says:

    Okay, mbutton, consider the economic specifics of the paper under my advisement, right along with the movie stars touting toothpaste, which is exactly the category in which it fits.

    I take much more seriously the admonition to be moral in my dealings with others, both politically and economically. The Church does have a right and a responsibility to be vocal on moral theology, but not on the mechanics of economics & national politics, about which these churchmen typically know less than nothing, which shows.

  14. Jack Hughes says:

    I wander if Mr Tucker has read “Jesus of Nazareth” where the Holy Faher warns about degrading man to a mere instrument of economics?

    I wonder if by “real free markets” Mr Tucker means that like Thomas Sowell thinks that there should be no such thing as the minimum wage, consumer protections or even a hint of government involvement in business? I have no idea of Mr Sowell’s religious affliation (if any) but the thought of someone who professes the Catholic faith to take such a view makes me feel sick.

    If Mr Tucker has been present at a Novus Ordo Mass last Sunday then the readings from the Holy Book of Exodus (Ch 22- the bit that comes a couple of minutes after the big TEN) would have chilled his liberatarian bones to the core; it had something to do with not oppressing the Widow, Orphan, pretty damming statement about usury………. you get the drift. Oh and why should I pay attention to this I hear him ask, well its the First Cause, the Unmoved mover , the great I AM whose doing the talking, you know the one who hung on a Cross for several hours, When he speaks I like to pay attention.

  15. I’m a big fan of Mr. Tucker. Thanks for posting this, Fr. Z!

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Thankfully, a comment which is to the point and spot on, albeit not fully covering all the rot. I honestly think that those who merely “toe the line” with Vatican statements need to grow up and see that the Faith is our business as adults, and that we need to understand who and what forces are behind such white papers. Mere, shear sheep-life acquiescence is not the sign of a mature Catholic, albeit we must be humble. But, the lay people who are in the Vatican are just as flawed as the rest of us, and the so-called experts are frequently not free-market fans. I can imagine that subsidiarity, the baby of so many of the conservative Catholics, is rarely discussed in real terms.

    And, by the way, can we not see a long history of leftist documentation, papers, coming out of this office? About time for a good, old clean-out.

    I only have one correction to Tucker and that is that the Gold Standard in America was actually done away with when FDR instituted the independent Federal Banks. Nixon merely acknowledged publicly and formally what had happened 35 years earlier. By the time of Reagan, there was finally the realization that the gold, yes, this is true, had been invested in European banks and other interests off-shore. This is documented economic history and not conspiracy theory stuff. Those is charge of the FR Banks basically took it all elsewhere. There were some smart Congressmen who brought this up in the post-World War II era, but they were ignored. One of my degrees is in history, and these things have fascinated me, as the money of the US has not been ours for a very long time. It is only our great prosperity, until recently, which has hidden these facts.

  17. Nicole says:

    I’m surprised that Mr. Tucker didn’t mention the word “usury” once…since that’s what fiat monetary systems are all about…

  18. Kerry says:

    It is always fascinating seeing what wonderful praise is heaped upon the Vatican when the jackals in the press agree with what’s (sort of, maybe, kind of) being said. When will they agree with the other 99.44%?

  19. Traductora says:

    Jeffrey Tucker’s analysis of this is very good. I saw another analysis that I also found interesting, which was that this reflected the “Church of the Southern Hemisphere.” It’s not only the worn-out collectivist vision of the European left being reflected here, but the hangover of Liberation Theology in its various guises.

    Cdl Turkson is an African, and there are an increasing number of Africans and Latin Americans working on this issue. As products of the Liberation Theology generation, they bring to it a peculiar post-colonial confusion between religion and the economy, since the “social justice” crowd completely abandoned the religious aspect – which is precisely why so many Latin Americans voted with their feet and became Evangelicals – and decided that Jesus was just another name for Che Guevara. Unfortunately, it’s a confusion that leads not only to silly calls for a world authority, but to the tolerance and even support for dictatorships like that of Hugo Chavez (who could have written this statement personally) that seem to be just fine with the bishops as long as they do not interfere directly with the status of the Church.

    While it’s tempting to regard this is as just a random statement by a not very important Vatican committee, I think there will only be more of this in the future. Don’t forget that this was the rationale used by the many American Catholic leftist academics to support Obama, even though he was completely at odds with the Church on moral and religious matters.

  20. RichardT says:

    Having read him in both guises, I’d occasionally wondered whether the Chant man was the same as the Acton man. Thank you for clearing that up, Father.

    I’ve given my young son his advice on table manners to read.

  21. anna 6 says:

    The Vatican document is a provocative piece of writing and people are free to draw their own conclusions…but it should not be dismissed so easily.

  22. merrilljong says:

    Tucker — an endorser, by the way, of my real-Catholic, really-non-governmental international charity, Militia Caritatis Dei — is right…I think…probably…but that’s not the nub of the matter:

    Tucker is himself, professionally, in the technical-economics game, so I guess it’s natural that he’s mainly interested in whether the Vatican “gets it right” or not. But he maybe misses the broader issue, i.e., that the Vatican SHOULDN’T EVEN BE TRYING to “grow in intellectual sophistication over worldly affairs”! If it’s putting its focus on “worldly affairs,” it is off-mission:

    “It belongs to the REAL MISSION of the Church to defend morality, to admonish men to it, to impose it upon every individual Christian.” (Dietrich von Hildebrand)

    As Tucker rightly says: “Being half right on something this important can lead to permanent calamity.” But he maybe implies that the “solution” is for the Vatican to continue its praiseworthy (?) growth “in intellectual sophistication over worldly affairs” so that eventually it will get things as completely right as the Von Mises Institute gets things.

    Won’t calamity better be avoided if the Church just sticks to its “real mission”? If the Church DOESN’T EVEN TRY to be right on these political issues, it will avoid being only “half-right,” and, presto, no calamity.

    In these instances, should the Church not confine itself to addressing, per Von Hildebrand, the “basic [moral and] philosophical issues” involved? For example: “Theft is wrong. There are many specific injunctions in the Bible against debasing the currency, which amounts to theft.” (Ron Paul, the once and never president, recently made reference to those injunctions to an American Christian audience.) Why can’t the Church just remind us of THAT, and point out that a debasing of the currency is precisely what’s going on now, on a world-wide scale? And then, instead of playing half-baked policy expert, the Church needs to simply say: “Stop doing that. But don’t ask US how to stop doing it! Not our job. We’re only in the admonishment business. YOU figure it out.”

  23. dominic1955 says:

    Mr. Hughes,

    That call to defend the fatherless and widows etc. is YOUR (and my) personal and social responsibility. That is not the same as paying lip-service to this by offering grains of incense to the idol we call The State-That Which Solves All Our Problems. Thus, your pharisaical condemnation of Mr. Tucker’s “libertarianism” through faulty appeal to Scripture and Divine authority is moot.

    Generally-

    This is yet another fine example of why we need to be careful with things that come “from Rome” or “from the Church”. There is a lot of just plain crap that claims to be authoritative, or that various cronies and idgits claim to be authoritative which simply is not and should be consigned directly to the dumpster. The creeping subjective infalibility ideas held by liberals and neo-cons needs to be stopped.

  24. Cathy says:

    Universal Health Care, great? right? support it!? Reality check, unless you publicly provide what you regard as an intrinsic moral evil, you will be penalized! All of this promoted by individual souls who proclaim to be “catholic”. Somehow, I get the feeling that if our leaders kept their eyes on Christ and the individuals espoused to Him and the very real endangered state of their souls we might have trees in government that could actually bear good fruit. The wisdom of limited big government is the recognition and compassion due to fallen man. Our governments are not peopled by the greatest of saints, and, even if they were, we must recognize that, in the future, they could equally be peopled by the greatest of sinners.

  25. Supertradmum says:

    Communists, Marxists and big bank bullies do not believe in Original Sin, but only in some sort of fake, Progressive, Star Trek, Messianic Age. Philosophically, the egotists and narcissists, who only believe in themselves, are in power everywhere. Sad to say, they cannot, because of myopia, see that their flavor of individualism will be crushed by the very things they support. Father Z used the word schizophrenic, and I call it delusional. Tragic is the word for some of the Vatican insiders to be in these camps…We are getting closer to the general collapse of democracy, which really doesn’t exist in Europe anyway, as far as I can see from where I am standing. It really is past time for Americans to stop living in the past glories of free-market capitalism and stand up against both the invisibles, who have the money, and the communists, who want the money. And, I remind readers here not to be heretical about the Church having no say over monetary matters. We are a historical, material, as well as spiritual Church, not merely a spiritual Church, and we need to get down and gritty in these discussions. The Son of God, Jesus Christ decided to be born under one of the most repressive empires in the entire world, with no middle-class, horrific taxes, terrible poverty, and wealth as well. Early Christians came from all classes, but the Vatican economists seem to hate the wealthy and out of false sympathy for the masses, fall into the greatest tyranny of our time-communism. Too many Catholics are socialists, a condemned political ideal. And, sadly, this is seen in some of the comments here. Scary.

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    The Acton founder and Jeffrey Tucker are not the same individual. I know this because I’ve personally seen them standing side by side in the process of taking a chant class. BUT they both do belong to a large network of so-called “think tanks” that are libertarian (sort of) in nature, and some of their funding is involved in that. You can check this out on Google if you’re interested. Anyway, they’re not the same person, in answer to a comment farther up the thread. [Jeffrey Tucker, editor of Sacred Music and blogger of The Chant Cafe, is indeed associated with Acton Institute as a faculty member of Acton University, et al.]

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    merrilljong,
    The church isn’t really in the “admonishment” business so much as it’s in the teaching business. [People tend to make church the heavy and that's another issue but it's involved here, obviously.] People learn from having properly formed consciences and really thinking deeply about the morality of the things they encounter, rather than acting in a knee-jerk fashion, one way or another. I would say that well done this favors neither the progressive nor the conservative side all the time, nor does it become something “libertarian” etc.

  28. Jack Hughes says:

    @dominic1955

    Nowhere in my comment did I mention government, my point was that the economic system advocated by Mr tucker looks upon these people as unproductive fit for nothings that are unworthy of our charity and should be thrown into the workhouse, indeed one of Mr Tucker’s colleagues at the Von Miss institute (Mr Michael Levin) actually defended Scrooge in an essay hosted on the Von Miss website.

    In any case please inform me how my criticism was ‘pharisaical’

    @Supertradmom

    In England the Church has a long and proud history of social activism (I know its a dirty word) including (but not limited to) the intervention of Cardinal Manning of behalf of the London Dockers in the strike of 1889.

    It is Also my contention that just becasue Socialism itself is condemmed by the Church it does not mean that every word uttered by a socialist comes from the devil, Eric Arthur Blair that great British advocate of democratic socialism wrote detailed critiuqes of captialism as did the founder of socialism Marx himself, Marx correctly diagnosed the problems of libertarian captialism even if he poscribed the wrong cure.

    Now as for ‘Vatican Economists hating the rich’, well if the Holy Father criticising the Gospel according to Geko counts as hating the Rich then I humbley submit that he is doing his job properly. Next you’ll be telling me that Bishop Myriel (from Les Misérables) hated the rich when he reminded them that their wealth would not secure their salvation or that no less a personage than the Son of God himself hated Dives who would not stoop to help poor Lazarus.

    Oh how it amuses me when the most ‘Christian Nation’ on earth cheers when people die from lack of health insurance, I shudder to think what St’s Basil, Ambrose and Aquinas would say if they heard Ronald Regan denouncing the very idea of medicare, of so called Catholics supplicating before the Altar of Adam Smith, paying lip service to the Son of God on a Sunday morning all the while serving the devil by serving those whose policies threaten the family.

    I’m just glad I have sane Catholics such as Chesterton, Belloc, Br. Andre Marie M.I.C.M and Christopher Ferreria to guide me in thinking in line with the CHURCH

  29. dominic1955 says:

    There is nothing wrong with an economic system which does not foist the moral charitible duties on the State. Indeed, I read it, and I fail to see what was so abhorent about Mr. Levin’s article.

    What was pharisaical about your criticism was that shrill pious appeal to On High (rather, your interpretation) in the readings for the NO and how they would chill Mr. Tucker to his “libertarian” bones. I think we should not apply sins that cry to heaven for vengence to people because our own economic opinions differ from theirs.

  30. St. Rafael says:

    There has been a war to the death and serious fight between the Catholics over the years between Austrian Libertarianism and Distributism, an economic system modeled after Catholic Social Teaching. This post just opened the can of worms over all this. All I will say is that I side with Distributism, and those interested should check out the website The Distributist Review.

  31. pinoytraddie says:

    I Prefer Coporatism!

  32. JMody says:

    FATHER ZEE:

    what is touched on in a couple comments here and missing from YOUR commentary as well as a host of other posts and publications is the underlying FACT that the Church has routinely and consistently condemned all forms of socialism and communism and whatever other name it takes for having two major flaws (was this Leo XIII’s commentary?) — it denies basic property rights, and, by focusing on the property and the material world and drawing this all to the State, it serves to turn men to the State and away from God. Listen to politicians the world over today — just a little more tax and a little more regulation and a little more debt will make everything better and YOU WILL FINALLY HAVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED — when God has in fact promised that we will never have ALL our problems solved in this world.

    All forms can be taken to excess, and so the comments that the Church’s mission is religious holds a little traction — but religion is how we treat with God, and God tells us that we must treat with our fellow man charitably, and so the respect of his property and his liberty and his family is at root a RELIGIOUS issue. The Church cannot and DOES NOT prescribe economic policy. She tries to form our consciences, all of us, so that there is an overtone to economic policy. Socialism/communism is far more than mere economics, however, and so the Church does PROSCRIBE it — but for some reason decided to make no mention whatsoever of it during VatII and forever since.

    Why is that? When will it be rectified?

  33. Ken.Hendrickson says:

    Dear Catholic Bishops of the world, hear my plea:

    Please study Central Banking and Fractional Reserve Banking, and learn what they are. Find out how they work. Determine the facts. Understand what they are in their very essence.

    Next, make a moral judgement. Are they good or evil?

    Finally, say so. Communicate. Do not be silent, especially if they are morally evil.

    I claim that they are, in their essence, counterfeiting and fraud. They are both methods of transferring wealth away from the society at large and towards the elites in the banking cartel. That transfer of wealth is more commonly known as theft.

    If I am wrong, please tell me.

    But if central banking and fractional reserve banking are, in their essences, theft, then please proclaim it loudly from your position of authority to teach morals and the Catholic Faith.

    These books will provide a good quick education:
    http://RealityZone.com/creature.html
    http://www.Amazon.com/Church-Market-Catholic-Defense-Economics/dp/0739110365
    Or you could also start with this much shorter explanation from my comments on Fr. Z’s blog.

    Please do it soon. The immense suffering around the world currently being experienced, as we go through this “Greater Depression”, was directly caused by the central bankers and the fractional reserve banking system. It is a great evil; the amount of suffering caused by this system staggers the imagination.

    Lord Have Mercy,
    Ken Hendrickson

    PS One of the theses of Thomas Woods’ book (linked above) is that much of economics is value free. The science of economics describes what will result if certain policies are enacted. I am making the claim that central banking and fractional reserve banking are, in their essence, theft — and are thus intrinsically immoral. I am asking you to study and learn for yourself what they are, and how they work. If they are, in fact, theft, then it is your duty as a bishop to declare them to be immoral. I am asking you to do your duty. Please do it right away!

  34. Joannes says:

    The criticism of “economic apriorism” and of the utilitarianism involved in economic liberalism in the white paper is spot on. The Austrian theory is very much based on such economic apriorism and liberalism. The Acton people are very into the Austrian theory. Therefore, they are into economic apriorism and the utilitarian thinking.

    Just like with Caritas in Veritate, the Actonites seem unwilling to speak to the rational criticisms of their economic first principles.

  35. Jack Hughes says:

    @dominic1955

    You said that you couldn’t find anything wrong with Mr Levin’s article, I’ll be nice and take two points.

    1)Mr Levin Criticises Mr Scratchit for being irresponsible in having so many children, well 1stly both Mr Levin and myself (unless he is a modernist jew) would agree that as the 127th Psalm states the Children are a blessing from God. Now perhaps Mr Scratchet and his wife tried abstinence, NFP (which is by the way still birth control, sinful in certain circumstances and inferior to not practising NFP- for full details see the latest edition of FAITH Magazine) and the like but found that either they didn’t work or that trying to abstain was too hard and was resulting in Mr Scratchet looking lustfully at other women, for Mr Scratchet’s wife to refuse him relations in such a situation would (according to Fr Ripperger FSSP) be sinful. Now given that marital relations tend to result in Children (indeed that is the goal of such actions) I can’t see how Mr Scratchet is being irresponsible.

    2) Mr Levin expects us to coldly and dispassionately view Tiny Tim, BAH HUMBUG, NO ONE should die because they cannot afford the cost of medical treatment!, now civilized people can debate the best means to finance the cost of healthcare but NO ONE should die because mommy or daddy couldn’t afford to pay for it, if that was the case then all the religious who provided free healthcare down the ages were the biggest bunch of suckers this side of eternity.

    Perhaps dominic1955 if I cannot warm your cold soul then St Basil the Great can, the following is taken from his Homily on Avarice and appeared on Mark Shea’s Pathos Blog earlier this month.

    “They say: whom do I wrong by keeping my property? What, tell me, is your property? Where did you find it and brought it to your life? Just like someone in the theatre, who had a seat and then stopped those who entered, judging that what lies common in front of everyone to use, was his own: rich men are of the same kind. They first took possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. If one had taken what is necessary to cover one’s needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

    Isn’t it true, that you fell off the womb naked? Isn’t it true, that naked you shall return to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don’t believe in God, you don’t acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.

    Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of our life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn’t it, if not for any other reason, in order for you to gain a reward for your kindness and faithful providence, and for him to be honoured with the great awards of patience? But you, having gathered everything inside the bosom of avarice which is always empty, do you think that you wrong no one, while you strip so many people?

    Who is the greedy person? It’s him, who doesn’t content himself with what he has. And who strips? He who steals what belongs to the others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not strip the others? What was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own. What do you think?

    He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him, who is able to dress the naked and doesn’t do it, does he deserve some other name? The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you could help.

    Still cold? Then perhaps this late 20th century update of will help you, the title of the song is “Marley and Marley” from Disney’s 1992 “Muppet Christmas Carol”

    We’re Marley and Marley,
    Averious and greed.
    We took advantage of the poor,
    just ignored the needy
    we specialized in causing pain,
    Spreading fear and doubt.
    and if you could not pay the rent,
    we simply threw you out.

    There was the year we evicted the entire orphanage.
    I remember the little tykes all standing in the snow bank.
    With their little frost-bitten teddy bears.

    We’re Marley and Marley,
    Our hearts were painted black.
    We should have known our evil deeds would put us both in shackles.
    Captive, bound, we’re double-ironed,
    Exhausted by the wait.
    As freedom comes from giving love,
    So, prison comes with hate.

    We’re Marley and Marley, Whooooooa.
    We’re Marley and Marley, Whooooooa.

    But my friends, you were not unfeeling towards your fellow men.
    True, there was something about mankind we loved.
    I think it was their money.

    Doomed, Scrooge! You’re doomed for all time.
    Your future is a horror story, written by your crime.
    Your chains are forged, by what you say and do.
    So, have your fun when life is done, a nightmare waits for you.

    Why these terrible chains?
    Oooooh, the chains.
    We forged these chains in life by our acts of greed. You wear such a chain yourself.
    Humbug, speak comfort to me friends.
    Comfort, aaahhhh.

    The likes of Tucker and Levin demonstrate that whilst the may speak words of praise on Saturday/Sunday the words of the Prophet Issiah might justly be applied to them “they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” Mr Tucker and Mr Levin have showed that Mammon is their true God and unless they repent of that (and in the case of Mr Levin his refusal to acknowledge the Deity of Christ) then they can expect to share the fate of Jacob Marley.

  36. Martial Artist says:

    @Jack Hughes,

    In that part of your comment of 26 October 2011 at 2:22 pm addressed to dominic1955 you wrote:

    Nowhere in my comment did I mention government….

    Yet in your initial comment on this thread of 25 October 2011 at 11:27 pm, to which I understood dominic1955 to be responding, you clearly wrote [emphasis added] :

    I wonder if by “real free markets” Mr Tucker means that … there should be no such thing as … even a hint of government involvement in business?

    I would humbly suggest that the highlighted portion of that initial comment, in particular, can readily be understood, and will be by most attentive readers, as an oblique but implicit suggestion that you believe the government should generally intervene in the market.

    You may not have intended to mention government, but the record clearly shows:

    (a) that you did; and,

    (b) that you appear generally to favor government intervention in the market, which intervention, as Austrian economists have clearly and convincingly argued, is a very large, most likely the major, part of the causation of the current U.S. economic unpleasantness, and has been so for every major U.S. recession and depression since the institution of the Federal Reserve Board in 1913.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  37. dominic1955 says:

    Very well, I have a few points myself-

    1. The character of Scrooge has been symbolic of greed and avarice for quite a few years. To try to “rehabilitate” him (even in a light-hearted manner) is going to fall flat, especially if people cannot see past the popular symbolic value of the character. Thus, its a better “preaching to the choir” gig than an apologetic ploy.

    2. NFP is not “birth control”, at least in the sense of being in any way equivalent to contraception. All this is kind of a red herring anyway, with the remedium concupiscientiae thing. People are not animals, they can control themselves. The Church never taught that people need to have the maximum of kids possible nor should they. Thus, it is possible for people to be irresponsible in their reproductive choices.

    3. As to Tiny Tim, yes, maybe they should go to a religious organization and ask for money. This is another point where this article falls flat because of the characters used, however, his point was not that we should coldly disregard Tiny Tim. In one’s personal life, it may very well be that they have a duty to help a fellow man in grave need, but Levin’s article isn’t about moral theology. Maybe it would be much better if religious orders and groups (i.e. the private sector) into the “business” of healthcare instead of having all the red tape and wasted money of government bureaucracies and such.

    4. I’ve read that homily, you have to put such things into context. If you want to get all literal with it, if you have any clothes put away for summer, guess you’ll be joing Levin and Tucker in hell where you seem to put them…

  38. Jack Hughes says:

    @Martial Artist

    YES I do to an extent favour government intervention in the market, I believe in the idea of a minimunm/living wage should be enshrined in Law, contary to the creed of libertarian social darwinism pursuit of wealth is not the sole object of our existence and I do not believe in the power of the ‘market’ to wipe the tear from every eye. At the same (like most distributionsists) I am not preaching excessive state intervention, its not the state’s business to regulate the number of times I brush teeth each day. SORRY if that doesn’t sit well with the cult of Rothbard et al.

    @dominic1955

    1) Mr Charles Dickens was one of England’s greatest writers, his novels are amongst the greatest works of fiction, combining elegant prose and vivid description along with a concern for the unlucky, the cripple. Although he did not become a Catholic he knew that as someone who had ‘got lucky’ it was his moral duty to help those less fortunate than himself, perhaps as we enter the 5th year of the global financial crises we should endevour to read or to re-read “Little Dorrit” which amongst other subjects tackles’ unscrupulous landlords, the horrific debtors prisons and unbridled market speculation, you liberatarians might even like the lampooning of government inefficienty personafied by the fictional Circumlocution office.

    2) NFP however you look at it is a means of preventing pregnency and is permissable rather than good in and of itself, also there is the consideration of the Saints who were never born because of such prevention, If the mother of St Catherine of Sienna (youngest of 22) had refused to carry her we would have been deprived of a great Saint and Doctor of the Church. (see below for moral theology)

    3) I would take the ‘market’ out of healthcare alltogether, there was a day when doctors actually went into medicine to cure people not to make a profit, Saint Giuseppe Moscati (Doctor) if he were still alive would probebly denounce the American health care system as coming straight from the devil, to conclude on this point, BETTER waste of money at socialised medicine that people dying because they can’t get insurance. Sure as hell Levin wasn’t talking moral theology, it is my contention that EVERYTHING is bound up with moral theology and economics is no different, hence the Catholics in the Von Miss crowd should go running to the nearest confessional and fall upon the mercy of God.

    4) Whilst I concede that St Basil used a fair amount rhetoric (as did most of the fathers) in his sermons the point he is trying to make is that it is a sin to hoard wealth for the sake of wealth, St Robert Bellimine in “The art of dying well” tells us that it is not a sin to be rich per say but that as our wealth increases so do the legitimate demands upon our charity, St basil here is talking to those who hoard wealth/earn ridiculous salaries as do many top-tier financial executives (lets face it HOW on Earth can one spend Milions of Dollars unless you are busy buying politician’s votes so you can make even more), as for your point about me, well my dream in life is to become a Religious and/or Priest, If a secular Priest I will simply own a couple of Cassocks, underwear a few sets of PJ’s and some gym clothes, as a religious I would own nothing.

  39. dominic1955 says:

    Mr. Hughes

    1. I know very well who Charles Dickens was. That is one of my points, an economic theory is different that a personal moral obligation. The moral theology manuals say we are not obligated to help any one person unless they are in dire straits (i.e. starving to death) and that one is obligated to give a certain percentage of their wealth to charity. Obviously all our endeavors are integrally tied together, but good business does not have to be heartless-sometimes the heart is transferred and exercised in different ways. I am completely against socialized medicine and much of any sort of statist bureaucracy throwing money at the issue, that doesn’t mean I think, “Well, tough” when people are having a hard time affording health care.

    2. I am not a libertarian, actually, I (nor anyone who knows me) would not consider myself anything like what is generally characterized by the term “libertarian”. I do, however, despise anything smacking of a nanny state or the State/Government having much to do with regulating life. The State/Government is necessary, but it needs to (generally speaking) stay out of the morality business unless of course it is a properly Catholic State.

    3. You have no idea “if” any saints were “prevented” from being born because of NFP (and for the record-not a big fan), nor could anyone know if or not. Same could be said about just straight up abstinence. I think God can take care of His plan. One could also turn such a simplistic argument around and say, “Gee, just think of all the sinners headed straight for hell that were prevented from being there!” Obviously, that’s just “pious” nonsense.

    4. Concerning medicine, that is all well and good if everyone was a saint. Plus, dying is simply a matter of living. Back in the day, practically everyone died by the time they were 50 or 60 if they were lucky. Overall, I do not see many cases of situations in which mere monetary issues decide if someone is going to die. There are a number of ways to alleviate this, I just heard on the radio about a benefit event for someone with cancer (or some such illness) to help pay for their medical bills. I do not see how it is in any way moral to shackle everyone to tax slavery to feed the beast of bureaucracy and immoral “medical” practices because we can sit back and say we are “doing” something for the poor and helpless and whatnot. That is complete crap, and so is your self-righteous condemnation of the von Mises (at least spell the guy’s name right) crowd, of whom I am not necessary a part of though I would sympathize with it.

    5. With the hoarding of wealth, Earth to you-yeah, of course. Point is, its none of your business to be deciding who is hoarding and who is to be condemned for such a thing. It is not just the rich who are greedy and avaricious, the poor can be just as bad or worse. The rich are lampooned as being models of greed and avarice and undoubtedly they can be but the Angelic Doctor himself would say that this, among all other situations in life, is an opportunity for grace and salvation. Millions of dollars can just be a way to lead a debauched and unholy life, but it can also be an opportunity to exercise virtues like magnanimity.

    6. If that is your plan, to be a secular priest or a religious, God be with you. With that, you should strive to work out your own salvation in fear and trembling and not be so quick to condemn others for things that are not as cut and dry as you seem to make it.

  40. Jack Hughes says:

    @dominic1955

    Focusing on the point about medical care you state “I do not see how it is in any way moral to shackle everyone to tax slavery to feed the beast of bureaucracy and immoral “medical” practices because we can sit back and say we are “doing” something for the poor and helpless and whatnot”

    I’m not talking about the imoral practises of abortion, IVF ect, I’m talking about life-saving medical treatment, you talk about “benefits for sufferers” well gee thanks, glad to know that if I’m a poor cripple in American then my life is totally in the hands of other people’s “good will” glad to know that I can depend on Von Mises libertarians to save my life when the insurance company says that despite all the dough I gave to them they won’t pay for the operation.

    Nowhere did I say that government healthcare is perfect, so that dispenses with the accusations of self-righteousness, I simply think that managed properly (Gemany and France are good examples) it is better i.e. more humane than free-market healthcare.

  41. dominic1955 says:

    Your life is in the hands of people’s “good will” in a socialized medicine scheme too. Someone voted that in there, and it could be voted right back out. People like me just think there are much more efficient and fair ways to make use of such funds.

    No, you didn’t say government healthcare was perfect but that wasn’t the point. We all know that much. What is bad about what you say is that you make it sound like people who differ in their opinions on how to handle matters are manifest sinners. Last time I checked the Austrian school or anything like it was not condemned and forbidden to Catholics. Thus, you should watch it.

  42. Supertradmum says:

    Jack Hughes,

    I lived in Great Britain for 12 years and Canada for 2 and a half years. I would always chose private health over government healthcare. The doctors in both countries are second-rate, the buildings dirty and understaffed, and the care, especially in ob-gyn is blatantly anti-life, without a choice, unless one makes a big fuss. I have too many horror stories concerning government-run healthcare. Socialized medicine is not the answer to the costs of private health care. I am not sure what the answer is, but there is no comparison to the excellence of private health care. Socialism in any branch of government just doesn’t work.

  43. Martial Artist says:

    @Jack Hughes,

    You may have dispensed with some of the criticisms, including self-righteousness, but you have not addressed the fact that you made the bald claim that you “nowhere mention(ed) government” when, in point of demonstrated fact, your mention of it was in your very first comment on this thread. Further, rather than recognizing that government interference in the healthcare financing system in the U.S. is at the root of the problem of lack of coverage and runaway cost increases, you imply that government has some magical ability to provide goods, including healthcare, more efficiently than can the market. One of those institutions has the ability to determine what sustainable quantities of goods and services cost, the other has no idea—I leave it to you to guess which institution is which.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  44. Braveheart says:

    Thank you Fr. Z; thank you(!) Jeffrey Tucker!

  45. Braveheart says:

    FYI for New Yorkers:

    On November 3, 2011, at NYU Law School, the Journal of Law & Liberty hosts its 7th Annual Friedrich A. von Hayek Lecture entitled the Hayekian Judge.

    On November 8, 2011, on publication of Nicholas Wapshott’s Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics, a debate entitled Keynes vs. Hayek: An Economics Debate will take place at the Asia Society.