Capitalism

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Who Is the Enemy?

For about forty years, the public high school in my home town did not have a basketball court.  They finally supplied the lack when they and two towns got together into the fourteenth plague of Egypt, the Consolidated School District, and built an enormous complex in no man’s land, inaccessible by foot to all but [...]

Does Francis Really Have a Marxism Problem?

Last November Pope Francis issued his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium  (The Joy of the Gospel) and it immediately met resistance from some conservatives who charged Francis with Marxism. Francis denied the accusations, insisting there was nothing in the exhortation that contradicted the Church’s teaching on social doctrine. The attention brought to Marxism in the Catholic [...]

Why Max Weber Was Wrong

Max Weber is justly famous for many things, but especially for having developed a theory about the relationship between capitalism and religion. The influence of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism remains considerable, not least because it has become a staple of sociological literature on the subject. Based on lectures he gave during a [...]

The Economy of Communion in Africa

Africa is a continent of great spiritual and cultural wealth, but also of great material poverty. The way forward for African economies is not aid and development assistance, but prudent business management that enables African workers to attain higher levels of productivity for their efforts. But what model of business management is appropriate for the [...]

The Love that Moves the Sun

  In one of the two greatest lines of world poetry, Dante bows gently toward "The Love that moves the sun and all the stars." Many moralists speak of love as the one fundamental and universal moral principle, the golden rule honored in all traditions. But what do we mean by love? In English we [...]

Economics: The Cheerful Science

Chances are, you’ve heard economics referred to as “the dismal science.” That unflattering description is glib and catchy; it is also 100 percent wrong. Let me set the record straight and explain why economics—far from being dismal—is cause for hope, joy, cheer, and optimism. Thomas Carlyle, a 19th-century Scottish essayist, coined the phrase “the dismal [...]

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 [...]

Catholics and “Usury”: A Tragic History

  This piece is paired with another view of usury from a distributist perspective, also running today. What makes “social teaching” different from the faith-and-morals magisterium of the Catholic Church? Most of the latter was settled early in Church history, with developments coming over time as subtle elaborations and careful applications of eternal truths. Social [...]

Another Sin We Don’t Want to Hear About

  This piece is paired with another view of usury from an Austrian economics perspective, also running today. The Catholic Church is always condemned for condemning sins. Since we are all sinners, sin is the last thing we want to hear about. But of course, if we don’t confess our sins and flee from our [...]

Free Enterprise and the Church: The Morality of Business and Work

The recent note from the Vatican on financial markets, along with the outbreak of protests in many cities against what is seen as the failures of capitalism, has once more brought up the question of what it is exactly that the Catholic Church teaches about economic issues. A recent contribution to this subject came with [...]

A Misguiding Note from the Vatican

The recent Note issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, "Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority," has liberals jubilant and conservatives apoplectic with its call “to create some form of global monetary management” (Sec. 4). This Note is a compilation of papal Social Teaching [...]

A Global Central Bank: Unjust!

Do we need a supranational authority to enforce social justice? The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PJCP) seems to think so. Its new document, "Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority," calls for global economic regulation by a supranational body and a central world [...]

The Pontifical Council for Peace, Justice…and Sauron?

Distributists and followers of the “Austrian school” of free market economics are notoriously at odds with each other over what constitutes a just economic order. We disagree, at times vigorously, on how to structure an economy that best guarantees the rights of the family and that offers the best opportunities for prosperity and liberty. We [...]

Profits are for People

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are demanding "people before profits" -- as if profit motivation were the source of mankind's troubles -- when it's often the absence of profit motivation that's the true villain. First, let's get both the definition and magnitude of profits out of the way. Profits represent the residual claim earned by [...]

Cooperation: A Free Market Benefits Everyone

The following will explain the most important idea in the history of social analysis. The notion (actually, it's a description of reality that is all around us but rarely noticed) has been around for many centuries. It was first discovered by late-medieval monks working in Spain. It was given scientific precision in the classical period. [...]

Free Enterprise Looks to the Future

Two years ago, in June 2009, the American economy emerged from recession, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But as this week's Economist noted, with typical British understatement, "The recovery has been a disappointment." And maybe not a recovery for long. Robert Shiller, the economist who first identified the housing bubble, said last [...]

Economics and Human Action

When it comes to economics, there is a serious comprehension deficit among Catholics. In order to understand this subject, we must first distinguish between the actions of human beings and the way those actions are perceived by those who study them. The value of any economic theory lies in how well it captures actual human [...]

Not Whether to Help the Poor, But How

The debate over the application of the core teachings of the Christian faith began when Jesus was presented with a Roman coin containing Caesar’s image. In that moment, the Lord drew both a limitation to the legitimate power of the state and a distinction between it and the supreme authority of Almighty God. What would [...]

A Love Letter to Capitalism?

So here I am in the Holy City for a week, to attend a family wedding and restore my shattered nerves. Too many months spent teaching Great Books in rural New Hampshire is enough to reduce a civilized man to a bag of broken glass, and I need at least a week of taking subways [...]

Common Sense Versus Nonsense

William J. McGee, the consumer advocate on the Department of Transportation's Future of Aviation Advisory Committee wrote "Forcing the F.A.A. to Fly Blind" in The New York Times (April 9, 2011), where he laments Congress' cut in the FAA budget, saying, "A $4 billion cut will necessarily reduce the work force further. And it's hard [...]

There Is No Third Way

Catholic discussion of economic policy usually takes place on a ridiculous level of abstraction. What is fairness, and can the market accomplish that? Shouldn't the civic order bear responsibility for the health and well-being of its members? How can we balance the demands of social equality and individual ownership? These are all very high-minded questions, [...]

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