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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mises Was Correct

when he noted that Christianity and laissez faire liberalism are incompatible in their social teaching.

10 comments:

  1. I would agree that you cannot be a Rothbardian and a Catholic no matter how you slice it. I don't think Mises deserves any credit for his understanding of the Catholic Church; I cite how incredibly wrong he was empirically in discussing the Catholic Church in "Bureaucracy" as evidence. And to treat analysis from before Vatican II as relevant to modern Catholic Social Teaching is... dare I say... a priori wrong.

    I've tested how far I could push libertarian policy (as opposed to libertarian philosophical justifications) on multiple staff members at Acton and they were willing to accept what we would call "anarcho-capitalism" since they wouldn't themselves label it anarchism. The only thing was that we would need to show that it is a prudential thing to do. It's the individualist stuff that pisses them off since it contradicts a lot of theology.

    The question of whether people at Acton are right for their emphasis on issues like subsidiarity is a question for theology. Mises wasn't a theologian and neither am I, so I don't think either of us has any special capacity for intuiting the true meanings of various passages from the Bible. Division of labor, etc.

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  2. Medaile seems to think that Rothbard was Catholic.

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  3. Medaile is confused on some Austrian details, but some people at the site were saying he meant "sympathetic to Catholicism," which is true. The interesting thing though is how opposed to Christianity Mises saw his own social doctrine as being.

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  4. Yes, this point is heavily emphasised by the staff and editors of Chronicles Magazine.

    A scholar of Greek and Roman classics and early Christian history, Thomas Fleming, works most drive this point, because he believes there has been a conflation between that kind of conservativism for which Edmund Burke was known and that kind of liberal philosophy that Adam Smith and Frederic Bastiat held, thanks to Bill Buckley's "fusionism".

    Interestingly, Thomas Fleming once knew Rothbard, and even told him that he agreed with him on 90% of government policies and they could safely ignore the problem of the last 10% until the first 90% were taken care of in their lifetimes. Rothbard, interestingly enough, agreed with this view.

    That isn't to say the last 10% does not involve some very serious differences between traditional Christianity and free market liberalism. In his book, Socialism, Fleming credited opponents of capitalism for correctly identifying its flaws and condemned classical liberalism for having been complicit in the disillusionment and alienation of working people in Europe.

    My own understanding of Christianity is very limited (since I am not Christian), but I understand this much. The Second Commandment is taken very seriously, and it is wrong to reinvent God in the name of one's political ideology. As such, Norman Thomas' Christian socialism was a heresy, Oral Roberts' Christian capitalism was a heresy, Leo Tolstoy's Christian pacifism was a heresy, and Cleon Skousen's Christian nationalism was a heresy.

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  5. "As such, Norman Thomas' Christian socialism was a heresy, Oral Roberts' Christian capitalism was a heresy, Leo Tolstoy's Christian pacifism was a heresy, and Cleon Skousen's Christian nationalism was a heresy."

    Yup.

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  6. The FPR article reminds me that a person may be brilliant in one area of life and somewhat of an ignoramus in another.

    According to Mises, "Jesus rejects everything that exists."

    Really? The same person that the Gospel of John says created all things now wants to reject all things? The same God that created all things in the book of Genesis and declared all things as "good" or "very good" now wants to unleash holy hell on all that he just created? I think not.

    True enough, the current state of things will, one day, disappear. That disappearance, however, is more correctly expressed as a caterpillar completing his journey and turning into a butterfly, rather than as a caterpillar being destroyed.

    Then, Mises rails against the rich. Mises states: "the Rich Man is condemned because he is rich, the Beggar praised because he is poor."

    This is wrong and it completely misrepresents what Jesus taught.

    Let's first take a look at a beggar. In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, someone who was a paralytic for 38 years is finally healed. Basically, the paralytic lay around not doing much. Jesus did not commend the person. In fact, Jesus healed him and then told him "to stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you." Instead of praise given to the paralytic beggar, Jesus offers censure.

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  7. Another criticism of Mises' criticism can be found in an analysis of the Rich Man. (The account is found in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18.) First, the man asked Jesus what was needed for salvation.

    After an introductory comment, Jesus said, "One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

    Jesus told the man what THAT MAN needed to hear. This was not a comment that Jesus was making to everyone. For the rich man, his possessions were his god. So, in order for him to worship the true God and have a relationship with the true God, he had to forsake the fake one.

    Every person has to forsake something. For me, I had to forsake (and must continue to forsake) things such as pride, lust, and greed. These are too name but a few. Am I perfect? Of course not. Nevertheless, I could not even begin to follow Jesus if my stated aim was to worship and please someone/something other than him. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke: you cannot serve both God and money.

    For Mises, Rothbard, and the like, I believe that Jesus would have challenged them on something in regards to their view and worship of libertarianism. Every doctrine of every stripe has its fanatical adherents. Jesus’ words to them are all the same: Give it up, gain treasure in heaven, and then come follow me.

    Returning to the story of the Rich Man, I would have thought a guy like Mises would have loved this story, for Jesus basically gives the man financial advice. Jesus tells the man to make an investment in heaven. In other words, Jesus tells the man to alter his time preference: In exchange for consuming something now, he can have greater, albeit different, riches later.

    If Mises wanted to criticize the fact that Jesus addressed this to the Rich Man and not to the beggar, Mises should have read until the end of the story. Jesus makes the comment that it is as likely for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. This, however, was not simply a statement about the rich, for look at how the apostles reacted to Jesus’ comment: “They were even more astonished and said to him, ‘Who then can be saved?’ “

    The apostles’ reaction makes it clear that Jesus’ comment was a referendum on ALL people’s chance of being saved, not just on the rich. Jesus acknowledged that their surprise was justified by saying, “With man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.”

    Jesus ends by saying this: “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father of children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a 100 times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields . . . and in the age to come, eternal life.” Wow, an ROI of 100 times! Jesus does not even limit the blessing to just the spiritual and emotional realm. He includes material things such as property.

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  8. Finally, the part about self-interest is ill-conceived. The Bible clearly indicates that self-interest IS involved in Christianity. For instance, Jesus thought that the Rich Man had a self-interest in going to heaven. Unfortunately for that man, the only way for him to pursue a later self-interest was the denial of a present and different self-interest, and the man did not want to do that. In Acts chapter 2, Peter, during the first public sermon after Jesus’ resurrection, says, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” The people acted out of self-interest. Granted, their self-interest was to know God and to go to heaven to be with God. Nevertheless, it was self-interest.

    And, in Acts 5, Peter makes this comment to a person who was trying to lie to God and Peter:“[Speaking about a piece of land, Peter says:] While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” Granted, God judged this person, but not because of his ownership of the land, but, as I just stated, because the man tried to lie to God.

    In Christianity, self-interest is coupled with knowing and loving God and loving people. This may seem contradictory, but it is no more contradictory than a member of the Godhead donning human flesh.

    Unfortunately, concepts such as these seem to have evaded Mises.

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  9. He was not very good with Buddhism, either.

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  10. I think the gulf between the traditionalist conservatism of Edmund Burke and the modern American free market loving variety of conservatism is overstated. It's worth noting, for example, that Russell Kirk was a major supporter of Goldwater, and Burke not only praised Smith as a genius, but in his own economic writings he almost out-Smiths Smith in his advocacy of laissez-faire.

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