Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Unending War on Intellectual Poverty and Atavistic Progressivism

Regarding the transdimensional monument -- or monument to the transdimensional -- we spoke of yesterday, there is an imperceptible point that it necessarily shades off into the relative, or what Schuon called the "human margin." For example, yesterday Joseph posed a question about Catholic "just war doctrine" as it pertains to the liberation of Iraq. I don't really know much about this doctrine, but I am quite sure that it cannot be considered "absolute," and would instead fall along the human margin. In other words, there is nothing in revelation that explicitly addresses when a particular war is just, but certain divine ideas can be "extended" to try to encompass areas that are not directly addressed in scripture.

If you do not respect this distinction between the absolute and the relative -- between revelation and the human margin -- then you are likely to confuse the God-given and the manmade. To cite another obvious example, Catholic teachers down through the centuries have also had a lot of erroneous ideas about economics that have greatly hindered economic development in countries where they predominate.

Even now, Catholic majority countries generally trail Protestant countries economically because of this legacy of economic innumeracy. It wasn't that these were bad people. It's just that they didn't know anything about economics, but were trying to achieve a "just" economic system by drawing out certain implications of the Bible. At a certain point, many Catholic theologians became more leftist than Catholic, meaning that they were well beyond the human margin and into the "all too human," at best.

In general, religious thinkers have often expressed great hostility to capitalism, probably because of a perceived difficulty reconciling it with the virtues. Indeed, the engine of capitalism might appear to such a person to revolve around the free exercise of certain deadly sins. In 1697, Father Thomasin wrote that "those who lend at interest... think they are doing nothing against reason, against equity, and finally against divine law.... Yet, if no one acquired or possessed more than he needed for his maintenance and that of his family, there would be no destitute in the world at all."

It cannot be emphasized enough that theologians are not economists. This being the case, they generally embrace mankind's "default" economic setting, which is a kind of crude communism that I believe is programmed into our genes. It is precisely this leftist genetic programming that we must transcend in order to facilitate a rational economy that creates and sustains the conditions that gradually materially elevate everyone. Or, to turn it around, if we had attempted to follow these religious thinkers' ideas of "just economic doctrine," we'd all still be living in the Dark Ages. But that never stops the left from trying. Again, "progressivism" is an atavistic tendency lodged deep within our genetic endowment -- which is why it is so difficult to eliminate it from the human "meme pool," since it "feels right" to many people, despite being so demonstrably destructive and dysfunctional.

Charles Davenant, an English political economist, wrote in 1699 that "Trade, without a doubt, is in its nature a pernicious thing; it brings in that wealth that introduces luxury; it gives rise to fraud and avarice, and extinguishes virtue and simplicity in manners; it depraves a people, and makes way for that corruption which never fails to end in slavery...." Here again, this could be Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or some other contemporary secular leftist speaking.

According to Jerry Muller, author of a fascinating book entitled The Mind and the Market (from which the quotes above and below were taken), "there was little room for commerce and the pursuit of gain in the portrait of the good society conveyed by the traditions of classical Greece and of Christianity, traditions that continued to influence intellectual life through the eighteenth century and beyond." But this approach to economics utterly backfired and only created more scarcity and therefore ceaseless war and plunder.

That is, "classic" economic theory, if that's what we want to call it, was predicated on the idea that there was a fixed amount of wealth in the world. Indeed, this is probably an extrapolation -- again, at the human margin -- of the belief that God created the world once and for all. The idea of unlimited economic growth probably clashed with the unconscious notion of a timeless and unevolving world given to us by a creator. Therefore, economic development was hindered by all sorts of dysfunctional ideas, such as a fixed "just price."

One of the sources of hostility to Jews is that they were often merchants, since they were forbidden to engage in most trades. To the economically innumerate, they cannot understand the merchant's role in buying and selling goods at a profit, since the "profit" seems to reflect no added value. Thus, today we still see the enduring hostility to profits, whether it is Walmart, or oil companies, or pharmaceutical companies, or CEOs. Leftists cannot understand that in a dynamic economy, one person's gain is not another person's loss. It is reminiscent of the Scholastic axiom that "money does not beget money." Indeed, according to Muller, "in early medieval iconography, money was often connected with excrement, and portrayed as filthy and disgusting" -- a tip-off to the psychologically primitive roots of the left's hostility to wealth. Similarly, merchants were regarded with great suspicion and often literally depicted as blood-sucking parasites, unlike "honest" people who worked with their hands and lived off the land.

Even today, virtually anyone on the left has difficulty wrapping his mind around the idea that there is no such thing as a "just price." Rather, there is only the price someone is willing to pay. If you try to artificially maintain a price, whether rent control or a "living wage," you will simply introduce distortions into the marketplace which will ripple outward and cause further distortions -- inflation, scarcity, inefficiency, etc.

Thus -- amazingly -- at the Democrat debate the other night, they were actually taking seriously questions about, for example, what to do about "the price of gasoline." This demonstrates such a profound degree of economic ignorance in both questioner and candidates, that it is more than a little frightening to contemplate. After all, should the government also subsidize and reimburse the oil companies for all those years they didn't turn a profit? Likewise, is college really too expensive because there isn't enough government subsidizing of it, or is there already way too much subsidizing of it? Or is it that there are simply too many people in college who have no business being there?

Regarding the default leftism of the human species, this might be the reason why leftism merges so readily with the unleashing of the most base instincts of mankind, including unrestrained violence. In other words, since the leftist is unable to evolve above his constitutional envy, he easily confuses "morality" and violence, in that any violence expressed for the purposes of achieving his socialist ideal is morally justified. Why else would socialist governments ranging from Hitler Germany to the Soviet Union to communist China be so simultaneously idealistic and sadistic? On the other hand, the United States and Great Britain (and other English speaking peoples), which have traditionally had the most liberal economies, have also produced the most decent and benign societies.

Since the roots of leftism may be traced to our genes, it is not surprising that the earliest economic thinking is essentially leftist. Socrates said that "The more men value money-making, the less they value virtue." And in the ancient Greek city-states, "virtue meant devotion to the well-being of the city," or to the collective -- absolutely no different than Hillary Clinton's promise to undo the "on your own" Republican society and replace it with her primitive and ultimately self-centered leftism. That is,

"The Democratic Party, the exit polls tell us, is the home of single, secular people. They are people who are on their own physically, as they may have a commitment problem where people of the opposite sex are concerned. They are, as the book by Robert D. Putnam says, Bowling Alone. And they are on their own spiritually, not belonging to any community of faith. Not surprisingly they want government to fill the gaps in their lives and make up for the lack of a safety net that a family or a church community provides. In short, they want other people to pay for their safety net. As a good Democratic politician, Senator Clinton understands and encourages this.

"The Republican Party, the exit polls tell us, is the home of religious, married people with children. They belong to families and churches, living their lives as 'we're all in it together' people. In addition, of course, those Republicans who are Christians believe in a God that loves them and wants them to love Him right back. How together is that? And religious people, Arthur C. Brooks tells us in Who Really Cares?, are more generous. They give more than secular people. When you give more, you get more, the philosophers tell us."

Thus, just as the "peace movement" will inevitably lead to more war, leftist economic principles ineluctably lead to more scarcity, want, and narrow-minded selfishness (not to be confused with self-interest), and therefore, a massive nanny state to fulfill the needs they artificially engender.

Leftist professors also reflect this primitive fetish surrounding the pursuit of wealth. As far back as Aristotle, it was felt that it was "desirable to be rich, but morally hazardous to engage in the active pursuit of riches through trade": "In the city that is most finely governed, the citizens should not live a vulgar or a merchant's way of life, for this sort of way of life is is ignoble and contrary to virtue." The leftist professor, as much as anyone, enjoys a kind of slack-filled fantasy existence that is only made possible because of the productive activities of others, and yet, he belittles them and bites the handouts that tenure him.

Just once, I wish that some boneheaded MSM lightweight such as Wolf Blizer, Chris Matthews, or Keith Olbermann, would ask one of these Democrat candidates, "40 years, trillion of dollars, and millions of damaged lives later, and do any of you have an exit strategy for the War on Poverty?"

55 Comments:

Anonymous greenspam said...

I certainly agree with all you say. Usury, in particular, seems suspect to the naive but in reality you can't run an economy without it.

All that being said, you do ignore the "backwards step" taken by capitalism in 19th century England and to a lesser degree in Europe.

The lesson of that time is that capitalism does require some mitigation by regulation if it is to serve the people well. Therefore, the pure free-market is as much a recipe for disaster as pure socialism.

As much as you despise the concept of mixing ideologies, in the case of economy it is manifestly clear that a middle road is the right road.

6/06/2007 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't really see any relationship between sensible regulation aimed at ensuring the functioning of the market -- say, anti-trust laws, or the Federal Reserve -- and leftist/statist/collectivist schemes of high taxation and income redistribution.

6/06/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Geenspam,

I agree with your point, but I would phrase it differently. The important principle here is that free and fair markets are the best way to increase everyone's prosperity. The key is that free and fair markets are fragile. Any rich and powerful organization, not just the government, can distort the market. There is nothing inherit in the market itself that prevents a large corporation,a rich interest group, or even a single powerful person from distorting the market. Hence the need for government regulation. Of course the purpose of any market regulation should have the ultimate aim of keeping the market fair and free. However a lot of regulation seems to be aimed at creating market distortions that favor certain interests over what the market would truly decide. The US government has always had problems with this, but my point is ,regulation aimed at keeping free and fair markets is a given under the tenets of capitalism. We don't need any of that socialist crap.

Sorry, I went all grad student there...

6/06/2007 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Paul G said...

Your discussion of economics driven by perceived moral rightness brought to mind this quote from Polanyi:

"Applied to human affairs, the Laplacean (that is, materialistic, or 'horizontal') universal mechanics induces the teaching that material welfare and the establishment of an unlimited power for imposing the conditions of material welfare are the supreme good. But our age overflows with inordinate moral aspirations. By absorbing this zeal, the objectives of power and wealth acquire a moral sanctity which, added to their supposed scientific necessity, enforces their acceptance as man's supreme and total destiny. The comprehensive claims of this movement leave no justification to public liberties, and demand that all cultural activities should subserve the power of the State in transforming society for the achievement of welfare." (Personal Knowledge, p. 142)

It is increasingly scary to see these ideas of "social justice" or "the greater good" attempt to absorb the moral power usually reserved for the vertical improvement of one's life and apply it so something so crass as a politician's agenda.

BTW Bob, I can't thank you enough for introducing me to Polanyi. His writing has really helped me to articulate a lot of the thoughts and ideas that have been stewing in my head for years...

6/06/2007 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The Divine shows up in the most ironic places:

"Every member of the 82nd Airborne Division could be a snake-handling congregationalist, for all I know, but these men and women, though you sneer and jeer at them, and snigger when you hear applause and excuses for suicide bombers -- and you have to live with the shame of having done that -- these people are guarding you while you sleep, whether you know it or not. And they're also creating space for secularism to emerge, and you better hope that they are successful."

6/06/2007 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Jehu said...

Interesting that the Priests of Socialism/Communism, have no problems with their own wealth, even when gained via the capitalistic system. To assuage that guilt for violating their bloodless religion, they give back a minimum of that wealth to ultimately worthless causes, such as global warming, or AIDS drugs to ignorant savages, or have a big concert and hold hands across the world, therefor, once and for all ending poverty...O, wait!

6/06/2007 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Van,
I know you know I know…was pressed for time and well…had to settle on the too general but efficient word that popped up. I trusted it would be treated the way it was intended – which you did.

6/06/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his supervisor, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' (Matthew 20:8-15)

Says so very much about "fairness" (as well as a few other things).

6/06/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous joseph said...

Fascinating post Bob, thanks.

Quite obviously, Catholic "just war theory" goes back at least to Aquinas. It hinges on the value of human life and the grievous sin of taking it unlawfully. Christian theologians tend to see all human life as more or less equal, and therefore, it becomes quite a real dilemma to engage in warfare, where either by decison or consequence, "innocent" lives may be taken.
I find this to be the major flaw of the theory, as, in practice, and in principle, human lives are not equal, evidently.

6/06/2007 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous money grubbing capitalist said...

I postulate not one but three 'default' or primitive economic patterns--

1. The gift economy used within the tribe or band

2. The trading economy used between between bands or tribes.

3. A raiding or plunder economic system fed by endemic warfare

The gift economy has always had a sweeter moral smell to it than the trading economy or plunder economy (probably because it dealt with friends rather than outside parties), but the 'crude communism' of which you speak was probably never the only way the primitives did business.

Trading for profit is innate in humanity, I would say, as is taking gain by plunder.

We in America continue no longer plunder, but we have a history of being sanctimonious about trade whilie at the same time embracing it.

The gift economy has now contracted so that it is only operant within blood clans.

6/06/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Although anecdotal accounts can be "tricky business," it was interesting to hear an interview on the Laura Ingraham Show a couple days ago with Dick Morris, former close advisor to Bill and Hillary Clinton (sorry, I could find no link). He said that Hillary's economic and social policies are based on her interpretation of Christianity, much more than leftist and/or socialist ideology.

In fact, he said that he once heard her say, "I don't see how anyone could be a Republican and a Christian."

6/06/2007 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Alan said...

Cool post.

A couple of thoughts

Bob, you made a point, I think, along the lines of the attraction of lefitsm being that you can define a desired outcome and require it whereas right wing views leave the result open ended but there are limits on the means - perhaps the desire for certainty of outcomes is part of the tendency to like socialistic schemes.

Another thought is that capitalism is a miracle for two reasons:
1. two opposite motivations (serving your fellow brothers/sisters vs greed) can both drive a capitalist to create value for others and therefore literally make money/wealth. I would argue that the "Christian" view of serving your firsts as the top priority and profits as the enabler is generally the winner in the long term.
2. If you take the simplest of scenarios with two people who have strengths at doing different jobs, through trade they actually create wealth that didn't exist before - each is happier after the trade than before.

6/06/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger MizzE said...

Great Britian, a free and democratic country, like Israel, is itself besieged by dictatorial cults.

Britian's Leftist intellectuals just voted to boycott Israel's colleges and universities.

Boycotting Decency.[Essay by James Lewis for American Thinker.]

6/06/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Johan (cosmic swede) said...

Greenspam & James:
"There is nothing inherit in the market itself that prevents a large corporation,a rich interest group, or even a single powerful person from distorting the market."

Oh, but there sure is! And that is "the Free market", as in it's free to anyone to engage in.

I don't know for sure, but something in your way of expressing yourself, my guess will be that you think Big Business and very wealthy people are, or might be, a problem, but that is only true if they are getting political influence to power to prevent competitors to enter the market.

But that is only possible with a government which gives them such access to power. And where is the problem then, at the market or in the government?

One of the most common example is how IBM, which was The Big Computer Company, almost got wiped out of the market by Microsoft... Today you see Microsoft as the mighty corporation, but they are constantly "attacked" by competitors on the market as well.

There are some "laws" about how big a company can get before it loses control and stop being in touch with what the market demands.

Since a company actually is a "planed economy" in miniature, there is a built in limit how big it can get without loosing control and has to be broken apart in lesser pieces.

It is also therefore vulnerable to smaller, quicker, competitors.

And, of course, people are only buying The Big Corp stuff, as long as they think it's good and at a reasonable price.

On a free market, there can be no monopoly, no raising the prices above the market price, and "forcing" everybody to buy their goods.

Only if the business and the state are allowed to "do business" and regulate the market to keep competitors out, there is a danger. But as you can see, that kind of problem is on the side of the market, but on the state side.

I don't know what "backwards step taken by capitalism in 19th century England" you are referring to, but one thing is sure: people were going from there miserably lives at the country side, into the cities, which were smoke filled and dirty, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. The reason was that they actually improved their lives - a lot.

A company can only serve, never rule over, their customers, because its livelihood is based on the free exchange of values, not on force or power.

That said; we might of course have companies runned by scumbags, like Enron, but that’s a different story.

But then again, I might have got it wrong and you already know all this, but meant something completely different with “distortions” of the market..?

6/06/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Johan (cosmic swede) said...

Oh, by the way, today the 6th of june is our national holiday in Sweden. The day we cheer and wave with our flag and think of only the great things about our country and our history!

Go Sweden!

6/06/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Thus, just as the "peace movement" will inevitably lead to more war, leftist economic principles ineluctably lead to more scarcity, want, and narrow-minded selfishness (not to be confused with self-interest), and therefore, a massive nanny state to fulfill the needs they artificially engender."

My initial Whoop! over this was dulled somewhat by the comment section, beginning with greenspam's foolish jotting:

"All that being said, you do ignore the "backwards step" taken by capitalism in 19th century England and to a lesser degree in Europe."

Such a statement can only be made from reading second hand sources - take a look back at actual history, reporting & stats there was nothing but a massive step forward - so far forward in fact, that people began to actually think that children shouldn't work from they moment they could stand, shouldn't die before their teens, shouldn't starve as a norm - which was the norm prior to the wealth and comfort, yes comfort, created by capitalism.

and further dulled with
"ensuring the functioning of the market -- say, anti-trust laws, or the Federal Reserve ..."

"Any rich and powerful organization, not just the government, can distort the market. There is nothing inherit in the market itself that prevents a large corporation,a rich interest group, or even a single powerful person from distorting the market. Hence the need for government regulation. Of course the purpose of any market regulation should have the ultimate aim of keeping the market fair and free..."

sigh.

Ok. For the moment, drop the label 'capitalism' (which I believe was coined by Marx, btw), and define it in terms of what policies it promotes and practices.
I'll wait.

Still waiting. No, that isn't part of it. I'll wait some more.

Ok, times up.

There are no policies in this system of economics. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

It relies upon pre-existing policies of freedom and law to enforce a persons right to their property and their life. That's it. What is called laissez faire(leave us alone!) capitalism, is nothing but leaving people free to make decisions about there lives, free from gov't (or other) coersion. Free. To. Choose.

There only two ways a Corporation can distort the market. 1) By hiring thugs to smash competitors products and/or hamper/prevent competitors from entering the market. 2) Bribing or otherwise influencing politicians to clamp down on competitors for them. (Swindling may seem like a #3, but actually falls under an indirect method of #1).

Other appearances which people fall back upon as seeing as market distortions, are but people freely choosing what is the most worthwhile use of their money. The only thing capable of distorting the market is Gov't, which it does via the Fed, anti-trust FTC, FDA, EPA, etc.

Assuming that there are proper laws enforcing Individual/Property Rights, the 1st situation will be dealt with by existing criminal law. The second option, weakens and will eventually destroy those same Individual/Property Rights, unless the gov't, via the Fed, anti-trust FTC, FDA, EPA, etc, is restrained from interfering in the economy. When that happens, the politicians won't be able to deliver any favors, and any crook will have only #1 to resort to, at which point the public can call in the cops and put the crooks away.

Some suggested Racoon homework:
Thomas Sowell via $ or library:
On Classical Economics (2006)

Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy, Second Edition

Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One (2003)

Free online:

Economics in One Lesson by HENRY HAZLITT

The Law by Frederic Bastiat

Well, I've just put my money where my mouth was to the tune of 30 min of missed billing time, so read up!

6/06/2007 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Thank you Johan (cosmic swede)! That brightened things up & will help lunch digest better!

6/06/2007 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger MizzE said...

Johan,

Ancient Sverige. May it always be free.

6/06/2007 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Johan (cosmic swede) said...

Thank you Van and MizzE!

Sweden is a home for the free, but not always of the so brave...

Anyhow, I will barke and complain about that another day.

I just put up a national holiday post with a nice picture and some commentary in english, enjoy! :)

6/06/2007 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

I saw some jackass democrat - not a household name, but a congressman from somewhere - on the tube the other day claiming that what Christ termed "loving thy neighbor" and "giving to the poor", "we (the dems presumably, but maybe he meant the USA historically) call taxation."

March of the 2008 dem camapaign memes on the way.

For what it's worth, pope JP2 once said, "The last communist on earth will be an American nun."

6/06/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Will,
I believe Bubba Clinton referred to taxes as ‘contributions’.

6/06/2007 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Who is driving the cosmic bus?

6/06/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Van said all that I was thinking. :) I'll have to follow those links and do some homework.

Very clear post, Bob.

Anon., Jesus' statements address the individual, not the state. It's a self-evident distinction and I will never understand why people don't get it. You can't call state coercion "compassion," not without rewriting the dictionary (admittedly a favorite leftwing activity).

Do you honestly think Jesus was trying to make a political statement when he emphasized "love your neighbor as yourself?" Oh, and don't forget the first part: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." Can we have the gov't. enforce that too? Why do leftists always leave the most important Commandment (according to Christ) out?

6/06/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dilys here:

This theological pseudo-economics is one of my hot butttons, sputtering "but, but, but..." It's a version of what lawyers think of as so malformed in assumption "it's not even wrong."

It's not wrong for its realm, which is one's personally chosen asceticism, or the ideals held for humanity. It is very wrong in the day-to-day how we live now, sacrificing clean water and free transfer of property to someone's unreached coercive ideal. It is my understanding that all the clergy everywhere, except for some toiling part-time Pentecostals and perhaps remote sand-poor mullahs, are on the Company payroll, and really don't get what it is to take the risk to generate something of economic value.

As NT Wright, a theologian rightly admired by orthodox Anglicans, said, toddling out of his range into a fretful summons to massively expand foreign aid via the usual suspects: "I am not an economist, but I know many leading bankers..." I doubt that not, My Lord Bishop.

The un-bemitred but remarkably lovable Señor Dilys, a voluble admirer of One Cosmos The Tome, has pointed out in the history of usury that (although care for the poor and the evil of theft are principles always and everywhere robust) a prohibition on taking interest is a position bound to its historic era. When land alone is the basis of wealth, no more land can be created and absent sophisticated animal-breeding and agriculture, it reaches capacity. To demand more than you lent may generate persistent imbalance.

However, once trade expands and the value-added transaction occurs, borrowing money at interest to engage comparative advantage is full of benefit. The risk introduced is simply a more conscious risk, contrasted to the passive one of crop failure and unmedicated plague. And a mettle of soul and faith emerge to match, in consciousness and courage.

Not to mention the increasing opportunity for sincere generosity.

6/06/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger MizzE said...

Given my earlier link to the British boycott of Israeli institutions of higher learning, I am happily prompted to post
Top lawyer fights boycott.

6/06/2007 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Johan,

I agree with everything you are saying. I'm not a fan of big government or planned economies. History has shown us, clearly, where these ideas lead. My point is a free market is a fragile thing, and without some sort of government control powerful interest groups can distort the market in their favor as what happened during the trust era here in America. Of course, you are correct the new game, or old game since the US government has been at it for a long time now, is to use the government to grant favors. This is quite a conundrum. We need government to enforce rule of law, but then it is easy for moneyed interests to buy some favors. Bob said everything I wanted to say better then I could:
"sensible regulation aimed at ensuring the functioning of the market..."

I don't have anything against the wealthy. I hope to be wealthy one day.

Van,

You make my point exactly. Rule of law is necessary for the free market to be free and fair. Who enforces the rule of law? The government enforces contracts, rule of law, and acceptable behavior by those in the market. The purpose of my original post is to argue that we don't really need to mix ideologies as greenspam suggested. The focus of any market regulation should be to ensure a free and fair market. I think we are talking the same economics. Still thanks for the links.

6/06/2007 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous applebee's said...

Clearly capitalism has some interesting moral boundaries. For instance, would you charge your father interest on a loan?

If you were thirsty and wanted a glass of lemonade from your child's lemonade stand, and you didn't have your wallet, would you just take the lemonade?

What if the same lemonade stand was owned by a neighbor's child that you werent't too fond of?

Inside the family, capitalism ceases to operate normally. Why is that? There must be some moral stigma attached to usury and profitmaking if it suddenly seems "suspect" in the context of kin.

On the same token, if someone offered you $600 for the car you were unloading for $500, would you take it?

If your spouse knew you'd been offered the $600, would you take only $500 because you were feeling charitable?

Why or why not?

At some point, charity clearly becomes foolishness if kin could gain from a transaction, and you turn it down.

Your best friend wants to go to Hawaii with you, but can't quite afford it. You cover the difference.

Your boss wants to go to Cincinatti with you, but can't quite stomach the plane ticket. What do you tell her?

Interesting, interesting. Money is tied up to morality somehow.

6/06/2007 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

It's inextricably tied up with morality.

"The love of money is the root of all evil."

As my husband likes to say, selling out your conscience is not a good bargain. Lying, selling one's integrity to gain money, it's not a good tradeoff.

But I think that's an entirely separate matter from the legitimate protection and dispensation of one's own rightful property.

BTW, yes I paid 25 cents for each cup of lemonade I consumed at my kids' stand. :) Even though I cut and juiced many of the lemons myself.

And I always encourage entrepreneurship by buying from the neighborhood stands. :) Also, they're just so cute.

6/06/2007 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Susannah said..."It's inextricably tied up with morality. The love of money is the root of all evil."

I beg to differ... it is the desire for the unearned (in more ways than monetarily), that is the root of all evil.

6/06/2007 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

applebees said "Inside the family, capitalism ceases to operate normally. Why is that?"

Got to be quick to head for home, but are you intentionally switching contexts and equivocating?

Peoples freely chosen actions change depending on where they are and who they are with across the board.

Manner of addressing people changes within the family, as opposed to a stranger on the street as well, does that indicate a deficiency with language?

I choose to mow my lawn(Actually I prefer to have my 14 yr old mow it, but, you know...), but not the lawn of the person around the block... does that indicate a deficiency with my gardening habits?

I'll share a fork to taste my 8 yr olds pie, but not not guy walking down the aisle of Applebee's, does that indicate a deficiency in my eating habits?

Familiarity and much else goes into the context of all you do, not just trade. Pretty lame objections.

6/06/2007 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

applebees,
I know and am related to some people who would charge interest on a loan to an immediate family member, and for perfectly valid reasons. I'm also related to a lot of ratbastard freeloaders who will happily suck their siblings financially dry because they refuse to take responsibility for themselves while simultaneously expecting to life an upper middle-class lifestyle. Lending money within families is often just as risky as lending in business.

Looking over your post again, I really don't understand what point you were trying to make. Could you please clarify?

6/06/2007 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Mizze - thanks for that second link; it's good to see that some in England are still willing to fight for what is right.

6/06/2007 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger The Bunnies said...

Applebee's, I would argue that the situations you described fall well within the realm of capitalism. The market is about profit and loss, but profit and loss don't have to be entirely monetary. You gain no money by buying a ticket to a movie, but that movie may well still be worth $9 to you (and I've discovered that more and more rarely is it woth the $9). Likewise, giving your father an interest-free loan simply means that you value helping out your father more than whatever interest you would make.

And as far as the "love of money leads to the root of all kinds of evil" goes, I believe that this verse condemns materialism, which is far different than valuing money. I agree with Van's point about undearned wealth, but this verse also applies to unearned value in the spiritual sense. Having nice things can provide happiness only insofar as they reflect that which you've earned, or at the very least, are grateful for. I see a huge difference between those who want to produce a lot and therefore get rich and those who would have no problem whatsoever with scheming old ladies out of their social security. Likewise, those who think that getting more stuff will make them happier are invariably disappointed.

And I think one of the greatest evidence for Christianity's implicit endorsement of capitalism is that never once throughout the New Testament do we see a call to force others to be moral. We're supposed to help the poor, but we're never told to make other people help the poor. Capitalism calls for the former but staunchly opposes the latter.

We must be free to be virtuous for virtue to exist. Socialism replaces virtue with enforced morality, which is why it's always leads to severe spiritual sickness.

6/06/2007 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger MizzE said...

More News You Can Use:

Apparently, there's been some sitings of coyotes in the San Francisco area.

This helpful recommendation I found here, if you care to read all about it. The highlight for me was:

“If you’re walking down the street and you see one, just mind your own business — the same thing you do with a raccoon,” Guldbech said.

Good advice, Buster!

6/06/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous late convert said...

If memory serves, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil," not the root of all evil. I don't think Paul was asserting the latter.

6/06/2007 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

LC, you're right. I usually copy & paste from esv.org. Just bein' lazy.

6/06/2007 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Yes, 'Love of money' should be interpreted in the same sense John says in his epistles "Love not the world nor the things in the world."

I.E. we're talking about Always Trusting, Always Believing, Always Enduring for, like Paul says. Would you ALWAYS trust a dollar bill?

Love not money, mang.

But it certainly has value. I don't see a conflict between the positions. :)

Also, one must note that our money says, In GOD We Trust. Huh. Odd!

6/06/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Anonymous applebee's said...

What I was trying to clarify for myself is that I see two systems of money; one for kin/clan, and one for non-kin.

Ordinary trade/capitalism is clearly only for non-kin.

I don't know what the spiritual ramifications of this are; perhaps what I'm trying to ask is "What if I declared all humanity my kin?"

Would that be the end of usury for me? How would this distort my thinking on economics? Is this what has happened to the lefties?

6/06/2007 08:07:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

"What if I declared all humanity my kin?"


Imagine billions of Duprees all on your tail at the same time.

JWM

6/06/2007 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

applebee,
Frankly, I disagree to some extent with your assertion that ordinary trade and capitalism are only for non-kin. Many responsible parents, in order to teach the value of money, expect their children to do chores to earn an allowance. Conversely, people give money to strangers with no expectation of a return every day - that's how charities work. As a very broad generality, you may be right, but it seems to me there are an awful lot of holes and it's stretched pretty thin. I realize I may be overthinking it, though.

Money, in and of itself, has no moral value. Like any thing, it is what people do with it, and do to obtain it, that matters.

As to your question about declaring all of humanity your kin, you might have a point there, but I think the mentality to which you refer is about much more than money. Most leftists aren't just cheesed off because they aren't rich and other people are, they want everybody to be at exactly the same level. Not just financially, but socially and spiritually. They want everyone to be equally popular, equally attractive, equally valued, equally smart, etc. ad (much) nauseum. The few examples I've known personally were less interested in declaring all people kin and more interested in demanding that nobody be better than them; in other words, they were envious. Of course, many do proclaim their interest in kinship with all people, but it never works that way.

Thank you for clarifying, though. I hope I've made sense; I've had a bad case of the stupids this week, which is why I've been so quiet :)

6/06/2007 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

applebee's said "What I was trying to clarify for myself is that I see two systems of money; one for kin/clan, and one for non-kin."

and "Ordinary trade/capitalism is clearly only for non-kin." (always a fun one to try and explain to your 14 yr old your asking to mow the lawn, who is trying to earn money for a new skateboard)

Money is but a durable representation of value created, which facilitates trading values. Far from itself being a root of any evil, it is one of the key things which makes civilizaiton possible, it is a sign that people trust that they can exchange something, such as all of the grain from a season of farming, for a sack of money, and have confidence that people they may have never met, will without fuss, accept your money for perishible goods as needed over the course of the years.

Without money, a farmer would have his crop of use and value only for the short period from its harvest to it's rotting in the barrel - but with money, he can trade the grain grown and sold 6 months ago, for fresh eggs, clothing, tools, etc, days, months, years into the future. The most stable and reliable material for money, has proved to be metal, with Gold & Silver being the best, since they are themselves valued for items of utility and adornment, and are nearly imperishable.

There are not two systems of money, 'kin/clan, and one for non-kin', there is only Value, your estimation of it, and those whom you trade with, that bring differing amounts of value to an exchange, based upon their familiarity and value in and of themselves, to you. That I might allow my 18 yr old to take over the remaining payments on my car, without charging him for the equity (might, Ryan, might) isn't a different system of money, it only shows that he brings a value to the trade which doesn't need currency to facilitate the exchange, a value in his person, which my neighbor has much less of to me, and which a stranger possesses negligable amounts of, if any at all.

James said "Rule of law is necessary for the free market to be free and fair. Who enforces the rule of law? The government enforces contracts, rule of law, and acceptable behavior by those in the market."

James, I don't doubt your intent with this, but that Devil do lurk in the details, particularly 'and acceptable behavior by those in the market.' - acceptable by who, to who, for who? Unless proper respect for Property Rights is the inviolable basis for the laws, the laws will soon be distorted and destroyed as new and expanding groups fight over what is 'acceptable behavior' and who it is acceptable to.

Fredrich Bastiat's 'The Law' (linked to above) looks at economics from the more fundamental perspective of what is, and is not, the proper function of Law, and shows that the only proper form of economics is that which is not interferred with by improper law.

From the Preface:"Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before - and immediately following -- the Revolution of February 1848. This was the period when France was rapidly turning to complete socialism. As a Deputy to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Bastiat was studying and explaining each socialist fallacy as it appeared. And he explained how socialism must inevitably degenerate into communism. But most of his countrymen chose to ignore his logic.

The Law is here presented again because the same situation exists in America today as in the France of 1848. The same socialist-communist ideas and plans that were then adopted in France are now sweeping America. The explanations and arguments then advanced against socialism by Mr. Bastiat are -- word for word -- equally valid today. His ideas deserve a serious hearing. "


And from Hazlitt's 'Economics in one lesson' (also linked to above)"therefore, the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the con- sequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Nine-tenths of the economic fallacies that are working such dreadful harm in the world today are the result of ignoring this lesson."

6/06/2007 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JWM said "Imagine billions of Duprees all on your tail at the same time."

Beat me to it!
;-)

wv: goutdy - yep.

6/06/2007 09:31:00 PM  
Anonymous USpace said...

Great post! Leftist economics in our genes, it makes sense that that kind of knee-jerk "Hey! That's not Fair! Give some more to me!" reaction would be an early and primitive insight to the free-market capitalism around them. It took years later for people to think this through to the truth and put it into words.

Communism just doesn't work, it never has and it never will. It goes against human nature; people have different appetites, motivations, dreams and abilities.

As the saying goes: "Communism has only killed 100 million people, let's give it another chance!"

Venezuela is moving very quickly towards full communism. Western oil industry investment will simply dry up.

All this nationalization will put many people out of work. Central planning does not work. Market forces of supply and demand do.

When laws of property rights are non-existent or un-enforced, society will deteriorate, or at best stagnate.

Communes can work, but not communism, which must be forced. Whether or not it is called fascism is not the point, it still by design must be a totalitarian state.

Extreme socialism will kill a country eventually too, if it is allowed to spiral out of control for too long.

Already, the farms that Chavez allowed to be stolen are being run into the ground by the 'worker owners', just like in Zimbabwe.

The health care system in Cuba is a very sick joke, and Canada's is much worse than it was before 'national health care' was implemented.
In China, a billion people live in abject poverty, and they also have to pay huge fees just to go to public high school.

In North Korea there are huge food shortages, practically no electricity, and a massive homeless problem, with tons of people sleeping on the sidewalks without shoes on or even a blanket or a piece of cardboard to lie on; I've seen videos secretly filmed and smuggled out of the country.

Communism tries to appeal to greed and class envy, and the desire to get stuff for free.

Capitalism, with clear and strong property rights, rights to unionize and strong laws against corruption and fraud, is the only way to go.

Obviously, the capitalist countries have many problems and injustices, but they pale in comparison to the miseries inherent in any communist country that has ever existed.

property rights -
people's rights to own it
and control it

not the state's to steal it
and give to someone else


absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
demand should exceed supply

but don't let prices rise
shortages are much better
.

6/06/2007 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Re: money and evil, a little context might help -

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
(I Timothy 6:6-10)

6/06/2007 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Bear with me; I'd like to address one more point, if I may.

"Would that be the end of usury for me?"

I don't think it would, and perhaps this is why I disagree with your assertion that capitalism isn't for kin. In very small communities, it is likely that a large percentage of the populace view each other as kin, whether they literally are or not. In places where a money economy has existed, they will still buy and sell from each other, and seek to make a profit. If there is a feeling of kinship, they may simply be more generous with and respectful of each other (assuming they treat kin better than strangers, which is most assuredly not always the case).

So frankly, I think the answer to your question is "no."

6/06/2007 09:44:00 PM  
Anonymous applebees kid said...

Yeah, my Dad is one cheap, boundary challenged, manipulative S.O.B.!
But where does an 8 year old go for help?

6/06/2007 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/06/2007 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Rephrasing, it seemed to me after the second post that applebee was trying to understand what influences leftist thought, and was not advocating communism.

6/06/2007 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Van, don't discount the notion of Gifting, which in some cases is an exchange - but in other cases we consider the value of having helped someone who doesn't know us or even who helped them greater than any gain. I know this because I have experienced it. But we cannot do this with everything, (though there are those for whom this is the only cure for their materialism.)

When you give gifts to your children, it is because they are your future, and you are investing directly in it, materially speaking. Even giving to a stranger is investing in the common goodwill, which is necessary for a society. Not everyone knows how to accept a gift, or can accept a particular gift.

But that's okay. There are many more people than any of us have gifts, so a recipient may be found for any.

One of the important things Jesus is teaching is to build goodwill among us, so that liberty is possible.

6/07/2007 04:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Mason said...

Bob you said:

That is, "classic" economic theory, if that's what we want to call it, was predicated on the idea that there was a fixed amount of wealth in the world. Indeed, this is probably an extrapolation -- again, at the human margin -- of the belief that God created the world once and for all. The idea of unlimited economic growth probably clashed with the unconscious notion of a timeless and unevolving world given to us by a creator. Therefore, economic development was hindered by all sorts of dysfunctional ideas, such as a fixed "just price."

And I ask: Isn't this why Islamism has maybe 10 or 20 patents worldwide and those within the last 20 years?

Mason

6/07/2007 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

NoMo noted "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

It has long fascinated me how that becomes "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.", and then quickly devolves to "The love of money is a root of all of evil." and finally "money is the root of all evil."... it's a case of removing ourselves from the police report, and making money the convenient scapegoat, some talisman of evil which corrupts us, freeing us from any blame in the matter.

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation" describes those who want money, without producing the value money represents. As Mason noted about the Islambies, and Gagdad about Plato & Aristotle, it represents a frame of mind which existed almost unopposed, in the pre-modern era. We need to keep in mind, that prior to the industrial revolution (the tale of the Talents notwithstanding), money, and wealth in general, existed on such a limited scale, there really was very little evidence to be had for investment, for Capital. Money seemed like something which just existed, was passed around, and which some ruthless few grabbed more of or plundered from others. Many things contributed to this, not the least of which was slavery, which not only poisoned the slave holders mind against productive work ('what, am I no better than a slave, to do such things?!'), but also removed any incentive for improving the the means of production - who gave a wit about improving the lot of slaves?

As that evil began to pass from the scene with the pre-industrial revolution, there began to be seen bountiful evidence for wealth being created, not swiped, but created and in mass quantities, and with those quantities of capital the previously overlooked necessities of Property Rights, Individual Rights and Freedom became vividly apparent.

If you want one to puzzle your head on for awhile, try this: one thing to keep in mind - Money - especially paper, but even in the case of gold - isn't a value itself, it's a representative of value produced and a method for making that value portable. Those who steal, swindle and otherwise swipe money - actually reduce the amount of wealth in the system. When someone steals money from you and spends it, they've reduced the currently available wealth in the system by that quantity. Run yourself a thought experiment of a closed community being invaded with counterfeiters, thieves or the Gov't printing presses running independently of the actual wealth in the bank. Track what happens to the wealth created by the farmers, artisans, laborers, bankers when money is passed around as if if represents wealth that has been created.

River - I'm not discounted gifting at all, or generosity in general, or the Virtues which are behind them.

6/07/2007 05:35:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Whatever you think about the later extensions to Spiral Dynamics, its simplified description of history shows cleanly how capitalism would have been impossible without the Middle Ages. It is no accident that capitalism arose in Europe, and that Jews were essential to its conception.

The "orange vMeme" of capitalism is built on top of the "blue" of traditional religion and ethnocentric (national) culture. It is made possible only by the trust built through generation of instilled respect for the Law as higher than the individual human. If we come to doubt that the Law will triumph, capitalism will fall as well.

This is a very real threat in Europe today under the influence of Muslim immigration. The newcomers tend to come from pre-medieval to early-medieval societies. They don't trust us, and we don't trust them. If this spread of distrust exceeds some unknown threshold, society will break down.

I came to think of this today as I read a Norwegian news site about a new law being proposed. It will make it impossible to marry a person from outside Europe unless you a) have earned at least NOK 200,000 ($33000) in one year, and never received welfare. (Well, you can marry them, but they won't be allowed to come here.) This is to stop the practice of Muslim parents keeping their daugthers from taking higher education or work, using them instead to import more male relatives from their homeland, who marry the girls at 18 and immediately set out to repeat the pattern. Why? Because they don't trust the capitalist pigs, only their own clan. They don't have the lesson we learned during the "oppression" from the Church.

To me it is obvious that unless we learn from the Middle Ages, we will get them all over again. And without the Jewish bankers, we are unlikely to ever get out this time.

6/07/2007 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Magnus Itland said...
The "orange vMeme" of capitalism is built on top of the "blue" meme! Blue Meme's! Quick! Make for the Yellow Submarine! (Sorry Magnus, couldn't resist. I haven't been able to get beyond their colorful pdf & a few papers & lectures, so it may be just me, but to me it seems that whatever value they have found, seems to be buried under unecessary neologisms and color coding which serves more to obscure than elucidate. What value they bring that doesn't already exist in Philosophical and Intellectual history, I'm afraid escapes me.)

"If we come to doubt that the Law will triumph, capitalism will fall as well." Very, very true.

"To me it is obvious that unless we learn from the Middle Ages, we will get them all over again. And without the Jewish bankers, we are unlikely to ever get out this time." Very possibly true.

It's up to the few who do get it to communicate, discuss, and act accordingly. The West has been saved a the few in the past... several times. It just takes doing what we're already inclined to do.

It may be slim, but the alternative is...?

6/07/2007 07:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Van,
I am a little astonished that you eat at Applebees. My experience there is it is quite like eating off someone else's fork.

Does St. Louis still have Ted Drew's (I think that's what it was called)? I lived there in the late 80's, and still go to the Vietnamese restaurants downtown when I pass through.

6/07/2007 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Joseph said... "I am a little astonished that you eat at Applebees. My experience there is it is quite like eating off someone else's fork."

Lol, you're not far off there! I've been a couple times for after game team events - not a favorite but not too bad - sort of like Denny's with a bar.

I believe Ted Drew's is a protected St. Louis animal, any attempt to alter or remove it would result in heavy fines and more imprisonment than Paris Hilton would be able to endure.

6/07/2007 11:25:00 AM  

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