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Michael Novak has done some great work to blend the teachings of the church with the Austrians and the American experience. See "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism" and "Free Persons and the Common Good" (among other works, including a book on sport). http://www.amazon.com/review/RUCSDN94REVUC/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

Great post. We can find criticisms towards the free market almost in every parish. If not by the parishioners than from the priests. I have sat in many a homily that has used the reading of Jesus and the rich man as their main opponent against success within a market economy, yet they neglect the story of the talents which Jesus also tells and rewards those who successfully used the market economy.

In the states, we find that many of the parishioners are against immigration yet the teachings of Christ say to love thy neighbor. I don't think by restricting our neighbors from coming to find a better life in the States we are loving them. In fact, by restricting them we are not loving them.

Chafuen's book on the Spanish Scholastics is a great read that I encourage any Catholic to read as well as Wood's The Church and the Market.

I actually did not enjoy Novak's books though. If I had to give an opinion to what books to read first I would have to list Wood's and Chafuen's as they agree more to the Austrian method and include a great deal of Catholic social teaching.
Wood's book is written as a Catholic who applies economic reasoning towards his social thought while as Novak uses economics only to reaffirm the social teaching. Easier said that Wood's does not think with his heart when applying his economic method as it biases the outcome. Not that we shouldn't read Novak, only I would reserve him for later.

Folks might also consider Deirdre McCloskey's "The Bourgeois Virtues," which contains a goodly number of attempts to reconcile Christianity and capitalism.

I am surprised at the negative reaction to Novak, certainly some of this writing is awkward as he was feeling his way into new territory. One of his books explicitly addresses and endorses the Austrians. Maybe it was "Free Persons..." http://www.the-rathouse.com/shortreviews/Novak.html

"The most significant achievement of the book is to explain how the common good can be served by the blend of individualism and free-market institutionalism (under the rule of law) that is advocated by von Mises and Hayek. Both these writers and other classical liberals dismiss the notion that there is anything identifiable as the common (collectivist) good. But the kind of 'common good' that Novak identifies is not of the collectivist variety, instead it is a framework of institutions and traditions which maximises the chance for all individuals to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This particular kind of common good is promoted by the extended order of morals and markets, provided that the markets and other vital parts of the system of law and government are working properly. Here the notion of the rule of law is crucial because it defines an essential function for strong (but limited) government."

It does not surprise me that such ideas would come out of a single parish, for out of the Vatican earlier this week comes another mortal sin. For if you are too rich, it is because you have been too selfish/greedy and therefore you belong in hell if you don't repent.

In the protestant belief, mainly from Calvinism, you find that if you are rich is because you are blessed by doing "Godly" things.

You're still missing the point.

The anti-capitalist posiion depends entirely on the assumption that taking from the rich to give to the poor reduces inequality.

Since you've all conceded the opposite-most conclusion, that it doesn't reduce but increases it, why keep it a secret?

Whose side are you on?

Hey Rafe,

Part of the negative reaction to Novak is because he, similar to many sociologists and Catholics that Sautet discusses, has promulgated the fact that poverty is the result of human design. Take a look at his 1993 article in Law and Social Inquiry: Public Economy and The Well-ordered Market. Sure, he has recanted on a few things since then, but due to his initial anti-capitalistic bias, many pro-market types may not give him a second chance.

Thanks Brian! Small world! I assume you wrote the Amazon review of Virgil Storr's book where some George Mason booster placed a comment yesterday! http://www.amazon.com/review/R1MPVG4MTH0E5/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

The Catholic Church may have a social teaching but Jesus did not and his immediate followers did not. See Frank H. Knight,The Economic Order and Religion, with T.W. Merriam, 1945.
Most of the interesting issues in a "social doctrine" (to the extent it has to do with the role of the State) are scientific. And the Church, by its own admission and by abundant historical evidence, has no expertise here. When the Church gets into issues like the "living wage" etc., I say simply, "Be quiet."

Prof Rizzo admonishing the Churchmen to simply "be quiet" reminds me of that liberal historian, I think her name was Carolyn Kearns Goodwin, telling the conservative Ben Stein, on that old Bill Maher show, that the rest of them just wished that he would be quiet.

And it is most reminiscent of Mises' description of the Marxists as "not prepared to submit...to rational analysis," considering it "insolence that those groping in darkness dare to contradict the inspired ones. Decency should impel them to creep into a corner and keep silent."

Prof. Rizzo is making it clear again, as I have long since noted, that the main difference between the Catholic Church and the Austrian School of Economics is that the Catholics are honest about it.

So far as Prof. Rizzo is not merely a high priest but a teacher, he is simply another of them that doesn't want to do his job, which is not to suppress but expose economic error, and not to silence but instruct the unlearned.


That was Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of the dumbest people on TV, telling Ben Stein, the smartest, that she and those other ignoramuses wished he'd just be quiet.

I'm not as smart as Stein, but I think I know a little of what he felt, after my recent experience here.

I interrupt to publicly remind our guest Mr. Lesvic that a degree of courtesy toward our other guests is one of the conditions of participation in the comments section of this blog. Lack of said courtesy will send you to the penalty box. Again.

It's interesting that many priests and devote Christians are easily seduced by populist thinking about economics. Anti-usury, anti-rich, anti-trade, and anti-globalization nowadays...

The most devastating condemnation of the social teachings of the Church might be found in Ayn Rand or Nietzsche. Both attacked Christianity by asserting that it glorifies poverty and damns abundance and success. There's no doubt that many religious people (not only Christians) fit into this mould, essentially akin to socialism, but not all of them. Not even the majority.

It is significant that most of the staunchest and most courageous opposition to communism in Europe came from the Churches. However, I believe that Christian economists, if they care about their communities, have a duty to try to stop the populist points of view from spreading unopposed. Otherwise you get 'Liberation Theology' and turn the Church into a recruiting base for young revolutionaries, who will by the way surely abandon their former religion and join religious Socialism.

Prof. Horwitz:

I refer you to the Wall Street Journal, Dec 29, 30, 2007, P W 8, BOOKS, Buttering Up vs Taking Down (Who occupies the higger moral ground, the flatter or the insult-slinger?), by Andrew Stark, reviewing Sticks and Stones, by Jerome Neu, and In Praise of Flattery, by Willis Goth Regier.

"...it was the purveyor of flattery, not the slinger of insults, whom Dante consigned to the eighth circle of hell."

"...insults cease to sting when they completely fail the truth test. Then they become less like real assaults and more like pro-wrestling matches: Nobody really gets hurt...For an insult to work, it must show at least some acquaintance with the truth.

Are you saying that I told the truth about Prof. Rizzo?

I'd like to know if he thinks so, too, and really feels the need of your protection.

I sure did Rafe. If you have not read it, you absolutely must. I believe that Storr is a true intellectual!

I must say that I do enjoy reading your reviews. And I too believe that the "Sociological Imagination" shows a lack of economic knowledge.

The Catholic Church claims to speak with a certain Divine Authority. The Encyclical Letters are not just op-ed pieces! What I am simply saying is that, by its own admission, the Church has no authority on scientific matters.I believe that, beyond platitudes,the key issues on the role of the State are scientific. Furthermore, the early Church was more interested in the second coming of Christ and individual salvation than the nature of legal property rights, etc. So I recommended Frank Knight writings on this issue of the "social gospel."

Prof. Rizzo is right in saying that the social teachings of the Church are not part of its doctrine nor of its dogma (as I mention in my post at the end). The Church is supposed to have authority only in matters of faith and morals. Beyond that, the Church merely offers an opinion, and has no particular expertise. Thus it is right to ask the Church to be as quiet as possible on these matters. And it is okay to criticize its views on economics (including when Church members are wrongheaded as in the case of the Hastings parish). For these reasons, Mr Lesvic didn't understand Prof. Rizzo's point.

Prof Rizzo says that the Church has no authority in these matters.

Neither does the Austrian School, nor anyone else.

Reason is the only authority, and it is universal.

While I very much appreciate Prof. Rizzo's courteous response, I still say that his job is not to silence but answer his critics.

Mr Sautet,

Where did I say that it wasn't alright to criticize the Church's views on economics?

Prof Rizzo,

Now that I have your attention, something that I have been wishing for for decades, what do you think of my "forbidden theory of redistribution?"

Check the hyperlink here:

http://econotrashtalk.typepad.com/

And you, too, Mr. Sautet, or, is it Prof. Sautet?

Never mind the Catholic Church. They're not your problem.

I am.

Just ask Prof. Horwitz.

Most Catholic theologians have turned away from Christianity's inherent mysticism, and have turned it into claims/arguments/rhetoric about social justice, just wages, and so on. Some of it is indeed Marxist-inspired. Using "Jesus" to defend either public property ("socialism") or private property ("capitalism") or any economic system "in between" or "beyond" misses the sheer mysticism behind the message.

Why use Jesus in these ways? In my humble opinion he's as relevant as Moses, Elijah, or Isaiah on economic matters -- not very. At the same time, can anybody really expect clergy and bishops to ignore their own foundations (the non-mystical elements) when making statements and judgments of the everyday world?

Perhaps we can deduce the proper economic system from Mary.

I jest.

It's the monks who've run off to the deserts and hills -- following the mystical content -- they are the silent ones. And few of us read them or are inspired by them any more. What a shame.

Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and Isaiah are not the only ones who are "irrelevant on economic matters."

So far as the issue is "social justice," the whole Austrian School is irrelevant.

Since taking from the rich to give to the poor does not reduce but increases inequality, and is therefore unjust as well as uneconomic, by the Left's own standards, those of you who will not point this out and strenuously resist the efforts of anyone else trying to do so are not merely irrelevant to the fight for freedom but the Left's first line of defense.

Now go ahead and banish me again, as silencing your critics seems to be all that you're capable of.


What about the social teaching of "Preferential Option for the Poor"? is that about property rights, a rejection of a more equal distribution of wealth?

Jeez, Lesvic sure is tedious.

Trade is beneficial to both parties; this is seen through the action of the trade. As no one would complete an action to make themselves worst off, the action of trade implies that each party is in it for their own personal gain. Therefore when the rich sell the items the poor wants, it is a mutual beneficial trade. The rich do not get richer while as the poorer get poorer.

Furthermore, Jesus had taught many examples of benefits in trade. I remind you of the parable of the talents where three servants were given talents to work with. Two had doubled the amount they were given while as the third hid the talents, which is a large amount of money, rather then invest it. Thus we can prove through scripture that trade is not frowned upon but actually held as a benefit to society.

As for reasoning, Chafuen's book on the Spanish Scholastics gives some of the best notations of reasoning and ethics. The late Spanish Scholastics claimed that private property and not communal property is a gift from God for in a communal property the individual who lies, cheats or steals gains the most while with private property it is the honest man who works his own property to achieve the most gain that profits the most.

Not including the Ten Commandments or Genesis which clearly define there shall be property. Genesis states dominion over the land, sea and air while the Ten Commandments proclaim that 'thou shall not steal' which implies private property since it is not theft if we all own it.

Prof Rizzo and the rest above are right. The Catholic Church needs to let go of the social teachings and return back to theology. The economist has to not let his faith get in the way of his economics as this will bias the outcome.
Prof. Boettke has a great method in applying economics. He calls it the Devil's test. It implies that the Devil and the Angel would use the same economic model in order to achieve different outcomes. The Church's main problem is they hold models that do not pass this test.

"Jesus had taught many examples of benefits in trade. I remind you of the parable of the talents where three servants were given talents to work with. Two had doubled the amount they were given while as the third hid the talents, which is a large amount of money, rather then invest it. Thus we can prove through scripture that trade is not frowned upon but actually held as a benefit to society."

Ian, I see parables such as as really having nothing to do with economics. I could be wrong, but I think Jesus didn't give a damn about financial investment. And consider the parable about the workers in the vineyard. Yes, Jesus speaks of wages and contracts. But the point -- as I see it -- has *nothing* at all to do with economics, but with someone late in the game converting to Christianity and receiving just as much of a chance of "admission into heaven" (whatever) as those who were faithful all their lives.

In my humble view he was not here to discuss investments, wages, and so on, but to use these commonly-understood notions to point towards the sheer mystical essence of his mission. We can go on and on over this, but I'll now shut up.

I'll contradict my last line above and say this: Let's read Smith, and Say, and Mises and Hayek and Friedman to learn about economic and political institutions. I'd hate to read into Jesus Smithean, Misesian, Rothbardian, Who-everian arguments. Nor would I claim that Jesus "anticipated" Adam Smith, or F.A. Hayek, or even Suze Orman on how to invest wisely. Err..., okay, "anticipated" in a wildly different context, but don't get me started on that. Enough from me. Shoot away or ignore as you all see fit.

Look no further than "liberation theology" in Central America to see how pathetic an organization the roman catholic church is for spreading a rational economic message.

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