Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's Wrong with Austrian Economics?

Before your eyes roll to the back of your head to peruse its own lids, just stop and think for a moment. Settle yourself. Take a deep breath, and consider this. Does Jesus really care about everything that we do? I mean everything?!

If you're like me, then you're probably going to have to answer in the affirmative here. Jesus does care, and since economics is really just a study about human action in the realm of capital, money, investing, purchasing, etc., then Jesus cares about economics.

With that out of the way, then, if you are into Social Justice, what economic system we "buy into" really matters. Many Catholics, particularly of the "conservative" bent, have turned to Austrian economics as the Catholic economics because it emphasises, rightly, the importance of subsidiarity when so many other economic systems function either in the realm of big government interventions that are justified by socialist principles or into systems that are so far removed from the real and practical concerns of the individual as to make them useless guides to Christian behavior. These economic systems tend to make it difficult for a Catholic to balance solidarity with subsidiarity, those two great sisters of Social Doctrine.

The most popular advocate for Austrian economics is Thomas Woods, Jr. a Senior Fellow at the von Mises Institute and a devout Catholic. He has written several books on economics and the most popular of those have been The Church and the Market and Meltdown. Woods is an astute thinker most of the time. He was astute enough, at least, to abandon his radical traditionalist buddies. Woods co-wrote The Great Facade with Christopher Ferrara, radical traditionalist par excellence, which argues that the Second Vatican Council introduced a fake Catholic Church to the world, one which must simply be abandoned wholesale. However, Woods' passion for Austrian economics is likewise problematic. It is problematic not so much for what it affirms, but for what it denies.

In Church and the Market Woods' main thesis is that Austrian economics demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt, that is it demonstrates to any right-thinking mature person of which camp he is of course a member that economics is a hard science which provides us with necessary and irrefutable truths about human activity. But that's not all. These necessary truths, these a priori facts, are so sound that should Catholic Social Doctrine advocate behavior that they irrefutably discovered to be harmful to persons, then Catholic Social Doctrine should be ignored. What, after all, does religion have to tell us about 2+2=4? Nothing.

This is dangerous stuff which Woods plays with, and unfortunately, after having read the book, I was left with more questions that before and a great deal of concern for Thomas Woods, Jr. These questions, though, lead me to investigate the roots of Austrian economics and praxeology, an invented science by Ludwig von Mises, who is considered one of the great founders of Austrian economics. Praxeology is the study of human action. At its root, then, Austrian economics is built upon a philosophical system in praxeology that needs to be investigated. In the following posts, I will try to do just this.

The most important point, however, is that I do this not because it's fun, or because I enjoy economic theory all that much. I do this because Jesus cares about what we do, everything! So I need to find out if Woods is right about Austrian economics and about praxeology. The goal, however, is always Jesus.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Contemplation Conundrum

I had a very interesting evening of conversation with a non-Catholic Christian friend of mine. There was all sorts of agreement on principles about this and that. What we disagreed about was the notion that reaching the highest state of contemplation, ala St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Thomas Aquinas, means that one is no longer capable of sin. That's right... no longer capable of sin.

I fear my Protestant friend is misreading these great saints, but not having read them, and or having read them so very long ago, I cannot say for sure where he is losing his way.

It did strike me, though, that this was just another form of the Protestant "once saved always saved" business. When God has created this relationship with an individual, so my friend argued, then why would He change His mind? Wouldn't he always want you to be with him and to be able to avoid sin? We went on into a tanget about whether God can change His mind at that point.

At any rate. He has promised to send me the pertinent passages for this debate. We shall see where they lead.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


My, but that was a long break, and goodness has this been a long...long year.

Well, it's not quite a year since I started this blog, but things certainly did go very, very screwy once I did.

Within the last year, since July of 2009 I've had three different job titles with three different job descriptions with three different offices. I began to feel like Milton.

The ups and downs have been tremendous, but in the last year I have also started to increase my notoriety for public speaking, radio work, writing, administering, and on and on. It has been a year of incredible growth, and not always the kind of growth that I had was always what the Master desired.

At any rate, now that I am a year older and a tad bit wiser, I do hope to be able to blog with some regularity, and cover the topics that I used to for that short period of time. These topics do center around the Social Doctrine of the Church, and I am more than sure that I will be "thinking out" several issues on the Social Doctrine on these pages. There is so much confusion out there and so little easily accessible guidance.

Do stay tuned and I will try to give my take on Caritas in veritate, the other works which I have read in the last year, Austrian Economics as that is laid out by Thomas Woods, Jr., and my take on a program for understanding the basics of the Social Doctrine. Peace.

Monday, July 6, 2009

In But a Few Hours...

...we will have the new encyclical from the Holy Father. I am very eager to read it, for I believe it will very evenhandedly present the Church's Social Doctrine and the current state of world economics in terms of a moral crisis.

Stay tuned for my take on the encyclical.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ghost Town

On a much lighter note, Mrs. UC and I watched the movie Ghost Town last night...and again this evening. It was that good. There are scenes of comic genius, and the film manages to avoid the sacarine blah that I had fully expected from a story about a man who starts to see ghosts after his near-death experience and is roped into trying to break up the impending marriage of a ghost's widow. So many things could go wrong here. But they never did. The casting, the acting, the writing, the directing, the music was all of it wonderful.

Go rent the movie. You will laugh.

CUA "Discussion"

Alright so I just finished watching the "discussion" between Robbie George and Doug Kmiec on life issues and the Obama administration. The verdict? While it wasn't a debate, strictly speaking...I mean, you know, they were just "discussing" things... but George wiped the floor with Kmiec.

I know, I know. I always hate it when people say such things. Victory is in the eye of the spin doctor. But here the issues were clear cut. As Mary Ann Glendon said at the end, it was wonderful that we finally had clarity about the disagreement between the Kmiec-pro-Life Obama supporters and the pro-Life anti-Obama folks. We now know where Kmiec stands...and he teeters on the edge of orthodoxy.

His interlocutors, be they Hadley Arkes or Robert George, have been exceedingly generous in always assuming the good will and right intention of Kmiec. To my eyes, Kmiec has displayed himself yet again as being a man who is struggling mightily to live between two worlds...and even his physical demeanor (severely slouching during the question period) demonstrates that he is being torn apart.

Now I feel sorry for the man.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kmiec...the Lawyer Within

Or what is else? There is your world within.
There rid the dragons, root out there the sin.
Your will is law in that small commonweal…

And so ends Hopkins’ poem "The Times Are Nightfall." It is a simple poem that ends with inviting the reader to think about the commonweal in each of us. The outside world is out of our control, but we have the law over ourselves. We can take control of our inner sanctum and “root out there the sin.” Why do we fail to do so?

I thought of this poem as I read this part from chapter five of Kmiec’s book, page 51:

Matters get tangled, deliberately so, when desperate Republican Faith Partisans seek to indenture the Catholic voter, who would otherwise gravitate toward the hopeful ideals of Barack Obama. The basis for this electoral enslavement? The unfounded claim that the Catholic voter is obliged to vote in a manner that either 1) recognizes only one acceptable means to address abortion (overturning Roe) and/or 2) disregards the full, comprehensive social teaching of the Church, except for addressing abortion by whatever means.
Note, please that the following is an “unfounded claim” by those SOB RFPs: there is only one acceptable means to address abortion and that is overturning Roe. Where, for Pete’s sake, could these RFP dodos get such a goofy idea as the notion that the only acceptable means of addressing the daily killing of innocent children is making it illegal?

Certainly it wasn’t from Faithful Citizenship, the document from the U.S. Bishops which states that

22. There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society,because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.
Sooo, the bishops seem to be saying – and it is the bishops here and not Catholics in Alliance – they are saying that a “legal system,” mark that Professor-of-Constitutional-Law Kmiec, a legal system that allows for abortion is “fundamentally flawed.” But nope, according to the good Professor of law, when addressing the legal killing of innocent children…you know…abortion, it is ridiculous to claim, as those bastard RFP’s do, that there is only one acceptable way to address it, namely making it illegal.

But, you might say, Professor Kmiec goes on to write, “and/or disregards the full, comprehensive social teaching of the Church.” Right, right. Surely we cannot subjugate all the rest of the Church’s social teaching to addressing the banning of abortion. What are those damned RFP’s thinking after all? Have they read Pope John Paul II’s Christifidelis laici where the pontiff writes:

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.
Okay, so let me get this straight. The RFP’s are batty because… because they make the unfounded claim that there in only one acceptable way to deal with legalized murder and because in holding up abortion they are ignoring all the other wonderful aspects of social doctrine about health, home, and work? I see. So given the quotes from the bishops and the Pope – I mean the real bishops and the real Pope – what does Professor Kmiec have to say for himself? Not much I suppose.

That’s alright though. We have the world within. Our will is law in our small commonweal, and if we want to decide that the murder of innocents is alright, well then to hell with those RFPs. Obama’s got “hopeful ideals”…”hopeful ideals”!