Dawson’s Usura Canto

It gives me no pleasure addressing Christopher Dawson’s views  on economics. I learned much from Dawson in my formative years, reading The Sundering of Christendom and The Crisis of Western Education back in high school, and many of his other books in later years. His synthesis of Catholic and Western history is so persuasive, and his reflections on so many topic wise, that I’m tempted to let the argument drop, and let Mr. Russello’s pious essay cover the nakedness of Noah. But I honestly can’t. If all that Dawson had said in his long, impassioned screed was that untrammeled financial speculation can wreck a society, and that greed is a deadly sin, I could happily nod and move on. Yes, there are blind spots in the bourgeois spirit that can metastasize into cancers, and fragile natural virtues which will fail if unaugmented by Grace. Wilhelm Röpke and before him Adam Smith recognized these weaknesses, and looked for means of remedy in religion, tradition, “moral sentiment,” and other forces which steady the wild ride of a market economy. Men are fallen, and when they are free they will sin. God knew that when He made us.

But that is to quibble on details. Dawson deals in essentials. When he errs, he is radically wrong. Hence his essay “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind” — which I have more than once thrown across the room, thus damaging my laptop — is not so much inaccurate as absolutely null and utterly void.

Dawson warns that the  bourgeois spirit is a vampire which must be staked straight through its heart, and he summons as alternatives other spirits he finds more wholesome. Here he is not simply mistaken but deeply perverse, and merits the full force of outrage Jeffrey Tucker expressed in his counterblast. Let me offer choice quotations from Dawson’s essay, bits of broken glass that make him so dangerous to swallow. Dawson claims:

The spirit of the Gospel is eminently that of the “open” type which gives, asking nothing in return, and spends itself for others. It is essentially hostile to the spirit of calculation, the spirit of worldly prudence and above all to the spirit of religious self-seeking and self-satisfaction.

This statement muddles two starkly different issues: The quantitative attitude of the Pharisees toward accumulating religious merits, and the ordinary good sense required in managing any earthly enterprise — from a bakery to a family. No, we are not to see God as a business partner, to whom we pay His “share” while retaining the rest for ourselves. Nor again is He a customer whom we wish to charge what the market will bear. In dealing with almighty God, that attitude (which emerged again in the Christian world with the sale of indulgences) is presumptively absurd. This is true for a simple reason: We are each in a state of infinite debt to God, if only for the fact of our creation and our ongoing existence, which depends from moment to moment upon His sovereign will. We are further indebted to Him for the still greater gift of Redemption, the actual graces we need from day to day, and the grace of final perseverance we pray will see us into heaven. Not a single one of these things is true in our business relationships, assuming that we are not slaves of either a private master or a totalitarian state—to name just the two most time-tested alternatives to the market economy. We are to cast ourselves at the feet of the throne of Mercy, not presuming to tote up our paltry good deeds against our many sins. Does this mean we should act the same way toward our employers, or toward the State? Does humility before almighty God demand we cultivate servility toward men? Was pre-modern Russia, where the “little father,” the Tsar, owned every stick of furniture in each of his subject’s homes, the model of a true Christian society?  Is ours a creed designed to make for cringing slaves, forelock-tugging serfs, and masters who preen and strut with the borrowed authority of God? To that we bourgeois reply: “Don’t tread on me.”

Here is another example, albeit a less absurd one, of Dawson carelessly conflating heaven and earth:

In the same way the ethos of the Gospels is sharply opposed to the economic view of life and the economic virtues. It teaches men to live from day to day without taking thought for their material needs. “For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses.” It even condemns the prudent forethought of the rich man who plans for the future: “Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”

News flash: Christians are not called to husband and steward their resources wisely, to plan for their retirements or their children’s education—nor even, it would seem, for their nutrition. (The Catholic economist Amintore Fanfani actually asserted precisely this in his too-widely read treatise Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism, wherein he praised fathers for disinheriting their children and leaving them destitute.) If this were true, it would make nonsense of Pope Leo XIII’s ferocious defense in Rerum Novarum of the sanctity of property rights—which on Dawson’s reading become the occasion of mortal sin. Indeed, Dawson dances perilously close to the heresy of the Spiritual Franciscans, who sought to impose on all clergy and finally on all laity the evangelical counsel of Poverty. They ought to have been consistent and preached universal celibacy, which solves all social problems in 70 short years.

Here Dawson takes Our Lord’s warning against taking spiritual comfort in worldly accumulation — against thinking, like Job’s comforters, that earthly wealth implies beatitude — and turns it into a literalistic demand that we all live like animals, with no more thought for the morrow than monkeys or mayflies. Only a handful even of religious orders have adopted such an attitude and refused to raise funds or keep financial reserves, relying on whatever wealth was thrown over the transom. (The Theatines were one of these rare orders. Perhaps the Conventual Franciscans and the Jesuits were too infected with the bourgeois spirit.) But Dawson demands this Providentialism of fathers of large families. He would no doubt have approved of my drunken grandfather, who fathered 11 children, only 5 of whom lived past age 5. Old Whatshisname lived quite untouched by the bourgeois taint.

As a noble alternative to the squalor of the suburbs, Dawson holds up “the Baroque culture of Spain… an uneconomic culture which spent its capital lavishly, recklessly and splendidly”. How, I might ask, was that capital acquired? In Spain’s case, massive shipments of gold and silver were taken by force in unjust wars of conquest—which conquistadors covered over with a fig-leaf in the following splendid way: The soldiers would order their chaplain to present the New World pagans they met with a copy of the Gospels, then demand (in Castilian, of course) that the pagans do reverence to it and submit to the King of Spain. When the puzzled Indians refused, perhaps even smote the Gospels to the ground, the Spaniards would attack and enslave them—then cart their gold home to Spain, to use it “lavishly, recklessly and splendidly.” Of course, the massive importation of currency—which men of that era mistook for wealth—accomplished nothing in the long run except to inflate the prices in Spain and ruin the bourgeois who were still left behind after the unjust expulsion of the Jews. This economic vandalism guaranteed the dominance of viciously anti-Catholic, slave-trading England. Catholic France was more friendly to business, so Dawson duly condemns it.

Dawson clearly follows the Classical, pagan preference for soldiers and noblemen, who make their living employing force against their fellow men, over businessmen who traffic in voluntary exchange. While soldiers sometimes fight justly, nobles can rule fairly, and businessmen can engage in evil trades (like slavery), surely it’s deeply perverse to prefer force to persuasion, serfdom to salesmanship, and conquest to commerce. The Church sees war as evil in itself, allowing it only in narrowly circumscribed cases, setting standards that very few wars waged even by Catholic monarchs ever fully met. Conversely, she sees ordinary business and commerce as the means by which most men earn their bread by the sweat of their brows—though she marks off certain methods of business which are evil. But sins of business are the exception, not the rule. For a war to be good, it must climb through the eye of a needle. So why should we as Christians prefer soldiers to salesmen, militaristic empires to bourgeois republics? Because the former are more romantic, and leave in their wake such poignant ruins?

There is something profoundly seductive, almost literally intoxicating, about the Quixotic picture Dawson paints, which many on the Right adopt without reflection—often spurred (let’s be candid) by envy or sloth. Ezra Pound is prime example of a great mind who (like Dawson) despised “the money power.” Like Dawson, he wanted “social credit” to displace the market economy. He went on to warn in potent verse against the evils of “Usura.” Pound did so, only eight years after Dawson’s 1936 essay, in radio broadcasts on behalf of Mussolini’s “totalitarian” state. Pound was a more consistent thinker than Dawson, it seems. He saw the true enemies of the bourgeois spirit, and joined them. He knew that the only way to stop men (those not called to apostolic poverty, anyway) from seeking the betterment of their families through business was to enslave them or redirect their energies into war. Happily, the bourgeois armies of “shopkeeper” nations like the United States and Great Britain put an end to that experiment. No Catholic, no rational man, should wish to see it repeated.

John Zmirak

By

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • Gian

    Evelyn Waugh saw nothing extraordinary in Mussolini’s Italy. It was an acceptable government, as acceptable as Franco’s Spain.
    Why is that Catholic Right revers Franco and abominates Mussolini?. Simply because he lost the war but this view is unhistorical as to the views of actual Catholic intellectuals in between world wars.

    • John Zmirak

      I don’t revere Franco, either. But at least he saved Jews from Hitler. Mussolini delivered them to him. However, that has nothing to do with Dawson, who certainly abhorred any such inhumane and unjust measures. I referred exclusively to the anti-bourgeois economics of the fascists–which would have been self-defeating and wrong even in the absence of genocide.

      • Gian

        Commanding heights of economy have to be coordinated with the State. It is a 20C truism, holding in bourgeois USA as well as semi-socialist India. The banking, that is the height and core of bourgeois, has been pretty well coordinated to the State in the whole of 20C capitalist countries without exception. In essence, all the so-called bourgeois countries are corporatist on the Mussolini model, esp 21C USA>

  • Gian

    Dawson’s points are perfectly illustrated by the fact that the great bourgeois nations (England, French Republic and US) have consistently followed an anti-Catholic line for over two hundred years. They had and have animus even for the Orthodox or else why would England and France prevent Russia for liberating Christians from Ottoman yoke (Crimean War).

    And it is very clever for bourgeois (defined by Dawson as money-dealers i,e. bankers and financiers) to take credit for all the innovations that scientists, engineers, doctors and craftsmen made.

  • Michael PS

    It is very notable that democracies have traditionally been suspicious of the bourgeoisie spirit.

    Montesquieu observes that in the Greek city-states, “All the gainful occupations and professions were regarded as unworthy of a free man. ‘Most of the arts,’ says Xenophon, ‘weaken the body; those who practice them must sit in the shade or by the fire; they have time neither for their friends nor for the republic.’ It was only with the corruption of certain democracies that artisans attained the status of citizens. This is what Aristotle teaches us, and he maintains that a good republic will never grant them civil rights.”

    And again, “Although equality of wealth is the very essence of the democratic state, it is, nevertheless, so difficult to establish that it is not always expedient to aim at extreme exactitude in this regard. It suffices to reduce and fix the differences within certain limits, after which it will be the function of particular laws to equalize, so to speak, the remaining inequalities by the taxes that they impose on the rich and the relief they grant to the poor. It is not enough, in a good democracy, that all land allotments be equal; they must be small, as among the Romans…..”

    The leaders of the French Revolution were very conscious of this, Saint-Just declaring that “Trade ill becomes the true citizen. The hand of man was made only to till the soil and to bear arms” and Robespierre called Sparta ” a lightening-flash in the dark night of despotism and crime” – and everyone knows how the laws of Lycurgus viewed the chicanery of commerce.

    • John Zmirak

      And we are supposed to see Sparta and the French Revolutionaries as POSITIVE examples? Sparta was the worst earthly Hell to exist until Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and the French Revolution was the greatest persecution of the Church in the West since Diocletian.

      • Michael PS

        It was the Revolution, after all, that gave a code of laws to a continent and restored the concept of citizenship to civilization

        As for Sparta, it was not three hundred shopkeepers who held back the Persian horde in the Pass of Thermopylae, “dying in obedience to the laws.”

        I need scarcely remind you that Plato, both in the Laws and the Republic modelled the laws of his ideal commonwealth on those of Sparta.

        • John Zmirak

          “Plato, both in the Laws and the Republic modelled the laws of his ideal commonwealth on those of Sparta.”

          Precisely. If you crave such a society, hop on the next plane to Pyongyang.

        • http://theorist-wwwsummaomniacom.blogspot.com/ Theorist

          But shopkeepers did establish the navy, which helped win some pretty important engagements against the Persians if I remember correctly. And Themistocles, who was money-grubbing, was a much better organized politician than the even the Spartans were.

          Some of the best places to live were established by shopkeepers: london, new york, japan, rhodes, tyre, syracuse, hong kong…

          • http://theorist-wwwsummaomniacom.blogspot.com/ Theorist

            Of course, themistocles did go over to the persians after the war…

            • Michael PS

              There you have the character of a commercial people: men like Themistocles, who sold his country and Miltiades, too, who died pursuing his private interests in the Chersonese with his country’s fleet.

              Newman put it well, when he said of the Athenians that they were “Feeble all together, the Athenians were superlatively energetic one by one. It was their very keenness of intellect individually which made them collectively so inefficient… There, great things were done by citizens working in their private capacity; working, it must be added, not so much from patriotism as for their personal advantage; or, if with patriotism, still with little chance of State encouragement or reward”

              At Rome, as at Sparta, there were no private interests to be served and rule was the sole object of the ambitious; the most honourable as well as the most lucrative professions were those of the soldier, the politician and the jurist. Thus, Rollin says, “God gave the Romans their empire as a reward for their great virtues, which cannot but be obvious. He would not have done them justice if He had accorded to these virtues, which have nothing materialistic about them, any less compensation.”

        • Micha Elyi

          Michael PS 01/11/2012 8:39 am
          “It was the Revolution, after all, that gave a code of laws to a continent…”

          Napoleon, not the French Revolution, imposed the Napoleonic code on Europe.

          “…and restored the concept of citizenship to civilization”

          Americans had already done that prior to the French Revolution.

          • Michael PS

            Napoléon embodied the principles of the Revolution and brought them to fruition.

  • http://elblogdelpelon.wordpress.com/ El Pelón

    This screed just proves that when push comes to shove, the Crisis editors aren’t going to bite the hand that feeds them. So many historical inaccuracies, special pleading, etc. that I am not going to even mention them all since I don’t have the time. The citing of the plundering of the New World by the Spanish cribs from the notes of the Marxist narrative of Latin American history (Galeano called the process, “the open veins of Latin America”), but do you not think all of those “good decent shopkeepers” didn’t benefit immensely from slavery, exploitation, genocide, etc.? Where do you think they got their money from? Selling meat pies to each other? And somehow this isn’t still going on, although in an altered form? On the other hand, it goes without saying that the “shopkeeper nations” didn’t defeat Hitler, the Soviet people did. (Though it is arguable that Stalinism created Nazi Germany in the first place with its dumb working class politics, but that is a story for another day.) But just keep trying to square that circle, and make apologies for the excesses of the 1%. I’ll keep reading either way.

    • John Zmirak

      I referred to the defeat of Mussolini, who was the relevant historical figure, and who was defeated entirely by U.S. and British arms.

    • Carl

      Ode to Pelon,

      Such a shame you don’t have time to contribute your historical corrections!

      “Crisis editors aren’t going to bite the hand that feeds them”
      LOL, yes, John Zmirak and editors of Crisis are a bunch of bourgeois website shopkeepers!

    • Alecto

      I take exception to your statement that the Soviet people defeated Hitler. First, the United States’ must be credited since it supplied the Soviets through the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, the Red Cross and U.S. Russian War Relief . It is no exaggeration to write that the U.S. single-handedly enabled the very survival of the Soviet Union during WWII. If it’s true that politics makes strange bedfellows, war makes perverse ones as FDR’s policies Stalin’s ongoing genocide (which included my family). If Hitler was defeated by anything originating from the Soviet Union, it was the weather.

      Your assertion that shopkeepers benefitted from slavery ignores the early history of the abolitionist movement in teh United States (shopkeepers and good Christians all) and debate between the northern shopkeepers and southern agrarians. The 3/5ths compromise which enabled ratification of the U.S. Constitution makes for interesting reading to anyone who believes the U.S. sought to perpetuate that evil. Can I remind you that shopkeepers as a rule don’t engage in genocide: governments, most especially those run by tyrannical despots do.

      • digdigby

        Chinese shopkeepers in Vietnam, Jewish shopkeepers in Europe, Hindu shopkeepers in Africa. Armenian shopkeepers in Istanbul (and that is just off the top of my head) . All victims of murder, expulsion, even genocide.

      • Sarto

        Didn’t have a dog in this fight up to this moment, thanks to el Pelon. But it was the Soviet Union that defeated Hitler. A tremendous PBS series called the “Unknown War” documents this. As for the help the U.S. gave: It was timely, but it was only a small fraction of the war material that the Soviets made for themselves.

        None of this gives and validity to the monster Stalin and his Communist government. One of the things that amazes me is this: This man murdered 45 million of his own people. He murdered all of his military officers down to the level of major just before Hitler attacked. After the Germans attacked, without adequate military leadership, the Russians lost whole armies, millions of men.

        But in the end, somehow out of the inner resources of an incredible people, they counterattacked, t urned the tide, ended up controlling air and ground forcing the Germans back and back, eventually conquering Berlin. The United States even stopped its progress toward Berlin because Eisenhower did not want American troops to suffer the kind of casualties the Russians were forced to take. In the face of this, what we did was a side show.

        Then came the Cold War, western propaganda, and all this contempt for Russia. The United States has its heroes, but our heroism pales in comparison to the story of what the Russians call “The Great Patriotic War.”

        • digdigby

          The Russians and their Nazi allies started WWII in case you have forgotten. They divided Poland like a Thanksgiving turkey. Solzhenitsyn says that there was only one man Stalin admired and trusted – Adolf Hitler and the betrayal of Barbarossa was so incomprehensible to him that he was paralyzed into inaction. As Nazis poured into Russia, secret police in Moscow were still arresting people in Moscow for ‘anti-Nazi’ speech. They’d forgotten to change the rules. Patton could have been in Berlin months earlier than the Soviets and at a fraction of the cost in lives. The reasons were political. You sound uncannily like my great uncle who was a lifelong member of the Communist Party USA.

        • Alecto

          Let me see if I’ve understood you. Eisenhower did not want American troops to suffer the kind of casualties the Russians were forced to take? In his extreme caution, he ordered American soldiers to wade through the Normandy surf against Nazi gunners during D-Day? I bet that was a real ice cream social? C’mon.

          It’s also unfair to compare casualties suffered by the Soviet Union during WWII to United States casualties, since all of ours resulted from military actions, whereas Soviet civilian casualities outnumbered military casualties. To this descendant of kulaks, Americans are the exceptional ones.

          Russia died of mortal wounds in 1917. The country you are writing about, the Soviet Union, was an oppressive, godless and tyrannical gulag. There was never any contempt for Russia, the contempt was for the Soviet Union and deservedly so. Beginning with the assasination of the tsar and his family, ordered by Lenin, no country has exhibited such bloodlust towards its own people, except Mao towards the Chinese. I have no doubt there were brave Soviet fighters, but Americans chose to fight, the Soviets were forced to fight.

          Finally, it’s not propaganda if it’s true. Soviets joyfully destroyed their own history, own exquisitely beautiful culture. It took Marjorie Merriweather Post to save even a small part of it from the vulgar, ignorant barbarians you seem to admire.

    • Sarto

      From the history I have read, the unbelievable influx of gold into Spain did destroy their economy in the end, thus weakening the nation and allowing England to take over. But I think you are right when you say the shopkeepers got part of the pie. Still doesn’t prove Dawson’s point about shopkeepers. I lived in Colombia and traveled all over Latin America and concluded that one of the main reasons Latin America continues to struggle is that it has no shop keepers, er, no middle class. That is why I am terrified to see the middle class collapsing in the United States.

      • digdigby

        One country does have a large and stable middle class – Costa Rica and it is the exception to the Latin American class warfare, instability and rampant corruption.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yimcatholic/ Frank Weathers

    I reckon the parables with business angles were lost on the good professor? Like the one about the unjust steward. Or is it the “shrewd manager?” Same thing.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yimcatholic/2011/06/because-jesus-is-the-unjust-steward.html

  • Mike in KC, MO

    So, I have to ask… Did Mr. Dawson get paid for his work? More to the point, did he have a retirement pension set up? Because I think that invalidates his ‘think of the lilies of the field’, care not for tomorrow reasoning.

    • John Zmirak

      Dawson ended up with an endowed, tenured chair at Harvard–which is greater economic security than a seat in the House of Lords. If he’d been an actual Theatine, the whole spectacle would be less ridiculous.

      • Mike in KC, MO

        And here I leave all my sarcasm, etc. behind and want to ask a serious question:

        “It teaches men to live from day to day without taking thought for their material needs. ‘For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses.’ It even condemns the prudent forethought of the rich man who plans for the future: ‘Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?’”

        Reading this again, he seems to be saying that it is the height of folly for me to continue to put money in savings for my two young daughters to have when they are older, or to think about funding their education, or anything else for that matter. Perhaps I should take these savings and spend them “lavishly, recklessly and splendidly.”

        This seems to contradict other sections of Scripture as well. Perhaps his view of the stewards of the rich man who went on a journey teaches that the final steward would have been exalted above the others if he had just taken his one talent and, instead of burying it, had simply blown it on artwork.

        Is his outlook really that simple? That doesn’t make any sense.

  • http://theorist-wwwsummaomniacom.blogspot.com/ Theorist

    There is nothing so bad about the bourgeois spirit -for what is so bad about money? Liking money is not a problem, but irrational love of money is.

    Sometimes I think that people get carried away and they believe that what is practical is moral (or immoral) and what is impractical is immoral (or moral), when this just confounds business, politics, etc. with morality as if the very pursuit of power or wealth is the same as being good. For instance, in stating that virtue creates a stable government and that stable governments inculcate virtue, or that maintaining order requires religion, or that work is useful for producing thrift, etc.

    • Carl

      In theory, yes, but in man’s fallen nature he requires rules—we are a nation of laws (rules). And It takes virtue and morals live by and uphold these laws.

      I think of heaven as a place of virtue and morals with no need for government—the exact opposite.

      • http://theorist-wwwsummaomniacom.blogspot.com/ Theorist

        Well of course man requires rules. Even in paradise, man required rules.

        But what I’m saying is that there’s no way to say that the life of a shopkeeper is morally worse than the life of a general, unless one already knows morality.

        Without a prior knowledge of what is good, one is either question begging or confusing the practical with the good: we may know that a politician is necessary for a stable society but we don’t know if a stable society is good (unless our definition of good is simply the same as stability and yet, it is far from obvious how stability is always good since one man’s stability is another’s tyranny).

  • Marc

    Dr. Zmirak,

    This was a very well-thought out essay. Do you think that Distributism could be described as bourgeois? It seems to me that the more widespread ownership of property and the means of production that people like Chesterton called for is preferable to the kind of society that Dawson calls for? How do you think Chesterton would have evaluated Dawson’s economic ideas?

  • Andrew

    Isn’t this just confusion of precepts and counsels, of natural law and justice, on the one hand, and supererogation, on the other. Of doing good (which is not an absolute requirement) versus avoiding evil (which is an absolute)? What may be true for a monk or friar following the evangelical counsels is hardly right for a leader or a father or a business owner who has obligations not only to himself, but to others.

  • Gian

    The Right is quick to count gains in life expectancy but they forget to count the losses of the bourgeois civilization. Abortion, contraception and destruction of marriage.
    And even in purely health sphere, we have increase in cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer.

    And the fruits of American Entrepreneurship:counterfeiting of food that started with butter and olive oil in 19C and now includes all the prepared food–meat by vegetable protein, ice cream by vegetable fats. They have managed to make it all legal but it is still counterfeiting.

    • Micha Elyi

      “Abortion, contraception and destruction of marriage.”

      Yeah, like those weren’t common in the definitely non-bourgeois Roman Empire.

      • http://theorist-wwwsummaomniacom.blogspot.com/ Theorist

        And Nero set up a public whore-house.

        Atheism (in the form of atomist-materialism) was beginning to really run amok among the military/priesthood/politicians of Rome too, not the merchant class.

        Not to mention, of course, the infamous spartans: talk about gay rights!

  • Michael PS

    St Thomas says (ST II-II, q. 77, a.4) says that commerce has a certain baseness (turpitudo) about it because, when we think of business as such, we do not think of it having any honest or necessary end. [He is closely following his beloved Aristotle here]

    He concedes, of course, that it may be directed to a good end, “Thus, for instance, a man may intend the moderate gain which he seeks to acquire by trading for the upkeep of his household, or for the assistance of the needy: or again, a man may take to trade for some public advantage, for instance, lest his country lack the necessaries of life, and seek gain, not as an end, but as payment for his labour.”

    By contrast, I would suggest the work of the peasant is intrinsically directed to a good and necessary end, the production of food, or the work of the physician, which is directed to healing and so on, even though these activities can be perverted to bad ends.

    Even the military life requires certain real virtues: courage, perseverance, self-control, prudence, discipline, constancy in misfortune, devotion to the community.

  • Mark W

    Well, I have to admit that I’m done with Crisis now.

    To cherry-pick a couple of sentences from this particular essay – without mention of the intent or even the previous full-page paragraph – is akin to a Protestant lecturing on the real meaning of Matthew 23:9.

    I’ll grant that some of Dawson’s points are arguable, but they are not contemptible and are more often than not deserving of reasoned criticism (if any criticism at all). Yet contempt is what we get from the editor of Crisis. (And Mr. Tucker goes so far as to bang his rhetorical shoe upon the table.) Dawson was criticized during his lifetime on a variety of subjects, but the discourse was always several notches above that of Dr. Zmirak by writers who at least took the work seriously even when they disagreed. Yet this is now what passes for intellectual discourse at Crisis; it seems all too smug, and the conversation ever more shallow.

    And I can’t pass this up: “Dawson ended up with an endowed, tenured chair at Harvard–which is greater economic security than a seat in the House of Lords. If he’d been an actual Theatine, the whole spectacle would be less ridiculous.” You’re beginning to sound like Norman Cantor, professor. While Cantor’s work was sound, he wasn’t exactly likeable. I took Cantor’s comments as simple professional jealousy, and lost a lot of respect for him as a scholar. Et tu?

    A final test – Dawson’s work is being rediscovered today, and reprinted by respected publishers and read by the ever eager minds of future historians. This is 40 years after his death, and about 50-60 years after his most prolific writing. I wonder if Dr. Zmirak’s work will be equally well remembered in half a century.

    Adios, Crisis. It’s been a fun 10 years. (And you can spare yourself the time of writing a response…I won’t be watching for one.)

    • John Zmirak

      It’s hardly disrespectful to an author to:
      a) Publish his original essay with equal prominence to the one critical of it (most sites would just have provided a link)
      b) Run alongside it a glowing profile of the author’s life work.
      c) Run an article defending his essay alongside the second piece critical of it.

      If that is not providing “context” what would be–visiting the home of each Crisis reader and reciting Dawson’s essay to them?

      Here are your marbles back, Mark. Have a nice walk home.

  • Pingback: An Economy for Humans | Intercollegiate Review

  • Pingback: Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind - Crisis Magazine

MENU