Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More on Economics

There is an article on Why Catholics Don't Understand Economics. What he really means is why Catholics don't agree with him on economics.His assumption is because they are all fools. That is one way to argue. That anyone who disagrees with you must just not be very bright. He even admits that many of these people have demonstrated great intelligence in other fields. But what I find interesting is he connects Catholicism with dissent from what he sees as the magisterium of economics. As someone who wants to think with the church that raises all sorts of red flags. Why should Catholic, both traditional and liberal, all have a blind spot for the truth in this area. That is not my observation. It is his. I would have said more traditional Catholics, at least in the US, tend to think like protestants when it comes to politics. In fact, many of the influential voices are protestant converts. But he does not see that. He sees Catholics as a group being hostile to his theory. That gets me thinking that either Catholicism is wrong or Jeffery Tucker is wrong. I'm thinking I want to be one of those stupid Catholics who can't understand what Jeffrey Tucker is saying.

Now why would Catholics come to different conclusions about economics? It is not because we can't comprehend scarce resources. Any 5 year old can get that. I can think of a few things. First, many Catholic thinkers on the subject have worked with the poor. This leads them to a people-centered analysis rather than a money-centered analysis. Then there is the matter of grace. Grace does not add up. Think of Mal. 3:8-12:
  "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
      "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
      "In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty.  "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
Now this makes no sense to an economist. You give with no logical reason to expect something back. Yet you do expect something back. A resource may be scarce but God can open the floodgates of heaven. There is a sense that we are to worry about the little things God gives us to manage and let God worry about the big stuff.

Anyway, there are many reasons why Jeffery Tucker can't comprehend Catholic thinking on the economy. Lack of intelligence is not one. But the wisdom of God is foolishness to men.


  1. Randy:

    You write, "What [Tucker] really means is why Catholics don't agree with him on economics.His assumption is because they are all fools. That is one way to argue."

    Another way is to assume that those who disagree with you are greedy. ; )

    Having read the article and your post, I am hard-pressed to figure out what your disagreement with Tucker consists in. You say you understand scarcity, as any 5-year-old could do. But explaining scarcity is all Tucker was doing, as far as I can see (as well as implying that most Catholics don't understand it). Do you read him as saying more than that?

    Of course I think Tucker wasn't all that clear either, in terms of his reasons for believing that "most Catholics" don't understand economics. It might have helped if he had given examples of statements by Catholics that he believes demonstrate their ignorance.

  2. I guess I mostly disagreed with his style of argument. If he asserted that Catholics were biased by some sort of evil desire or misguided philosophy I could accept that. I might not agree but pointing out biases is important. Almost everyone overestimates how objective their thinking is.

    That is precisely why thinking with the church is important. It is the one institution that we know God protects from serious error. Even in its non-infallible pronouncements does way better at discerning truth than I could do on my own.

    So by declaring Catholics to be thinkers he is far, far away from in terms of economic philosophy that tells me I want to be far, far away from him as well. If any question is framed as a choice between the wisdom of the day and the wisdom of the church that is very revealing to me.

    I doubt I could debate Tucker in terms of economic theory. I don't know his qualifications but I am betting they far exceed mine. But if he says his thinking cannot be reconciled with Catholic thought that save me the trouble.