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The Church and the Libertarian: A Defense of the Catholic Church's Teaching on Man, Economy, and State byChristopher A. Ferrara reads reviews

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From the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 28, 2015
Interesting book. I only purchased this because it was required for a class. The writing style feels at times a bit amateur, less like a textbook and more like a blog. The writer's sympathies are with traditionalist Catholicism and the website that supports the book is a bit questionable in terms of its orthodoxy (though supposedly not schismatic). If you are sensitive to that sort of thing, get a used copy like I did to be on the safe time.

While I did not go over the book with a fine tooth comb, it basically attacks the viewpoints of those (especially professed Catholics) who support modern "Libertarianism" and instead defends Distributist views of politics and the economy. No one is likely to agree with everything in the book, but it could provide fodder for a discussion on these topics, especially within a Catholic context.
6 people found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 9, 2018
It is easy to see why Austrian libertarianism has a certain appeal to many conservative Catholics. In an era where the Government increasingly interferes in areas which should not concern it, who doesn’t long for the State to take a step back? What Catholic doesn’t abhor the shameful reality of tax money funding abortion? And few are the Catholic families who have not felt the financial pinch caused by increased taxation. The Ludwig Von Mises Institute regularly churns our books, leaflets, and articles on why its combination of anarchism and unrestricted capitalism is the solution to present frustrations with bloated Government. Is this a viable solution for Catholics attempting to implement Church teaching? Absolutely not, according to Christopher Ferrara. ‘The Church and the Libertarian’ is his response to those who believe that Austrian libertarianism can be merged with Catholic teaching. More specifically, it is a rebuttal to Thomas Woods, a senior fellow at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, whose book, 'The Church and the Market' argues that Austrian economics is not only compatible with Catholicism, but is actually the most efficient way to implement Catholic social teaching. Not so says Ferrara, and his rebuttal is an excellent defence of Catholic teaching regarding the economy, society, and rights and duties of man.

Ferrara does a good job in presenting the foundational teachings of Austrian libertarianism. He looks carefully at the character, writings, and intentions of men such as Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and more contemporary advocates such as Walter Bloch, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and, of course, Thomas Woods. The philosophical system underpinning their beliefs are shown to be dramatically at odds with the classical philosophy promoted by the Church. These foundational distinctions—recognized and celebrated by the anti-clerical Von Mises and Rothbard—cannot but create clear incompatible differences between the ethical outlook of the Church and proponents of the Austrian school. There are, indeed, two separate Gospels being preached.

Ferrara goes on to look at the practical consequences of Austrian thought. The result is not pretty, and while socialism may be condemned by the Church, the culture of greed and injustice that results from Austrian thinking is a sure way to turn working men into disciples of Marx. Ferrara hammers the point that the social teaching of the Church, testified by a succession of Popes, has as much to say about the unrestricted ‘liberty’ of the Right as it does about the collectivism of the Left. He is particularly scornful of Austrian libertarians claiming that their economic model is a ‘value-free’ science, noting the devastating effect that unrestricted capitalism has had on individuals, families and communities. Austrian libertarians may claim to value individualism and liberty, but Ferrara observes that the value they place on the individual is restricted to the dictates of the market, and their love of liberty synonymous with the liberty to exploit the weak and vulnerable. When an economic philosophy leads to a defence of sweat-shops, child-slavery, price gouging, unrestricted usury, blackmail, bribery, and utter contempt for the well-being of those on the bottom-rung of society, it should be clear that this is not a philosophy that is compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Austrian libertarians routinely dismiss any objections to their dystopian vision of society as ‘socialism’. Ferrara devotes a considerable number of chapters to exposing this fallacy, and provides a robust defence the Distributism formulated by G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and subsequent economic thinkers. This is a viable alternative to socialism and corporate capitalism, and it is a shame that more Catholics are not aware of it. Indeed, despite Ferrara’s own reactionary views, he presents a societal system that should hold an attraction to anyone, Catholic or non-Catholic, liberal or conservative, seeking to build a society characterized by stability, justice and common-decency.

The book could have done with a bit more editing, and Ferrara’s polemics, whilst being justified, are occasionally of the hair-raising variety of his articles in The Remnant. That noted, he has written a decisive rebuttal to those who believe that the worship of mammon can be combined with the values of the Catholic Church. The principles and conclusions of Austrian libertarianism are fundamentally at odds with the message of the Gospel, and the society its advocates seek to build is a long way from the Kingdom of God.
12 people found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 27, 2011
I have read this book closely, along with books by Tom Woods and others advocating the so called "libertarian" agenda, and I find this book to be absolutely essential, and I hope it receives wide readership within the Church.

Some background about me. I am a former libertarian. In graduate school I discovered libertarian ideas and was struck by how clear and simple they made the world seem. As a student of the social sciences, I had a formula that was 100% foolproof, and enabled me to make sense of any social question.

The formula was this: The state holds a legal monopoly on the use of force and is therefore incredibly dangerous and based on violence. Free markets operate with coercion and are therefore infinitely superior and ought to be operate with no government interference at all. The end.

I learned quickly that is was easy, once this formula was mastered, to plug in any social question and write cogent well thought out and well argued papers. Some of conclusions one draws following this approach are sound. I am still opposed to zoning laws for instance largely because of arguments I mastered utilizing the libertarian paradigm. But to say that it is a simplistic formula, and certainly entirely ideological as opposed to scientific, would be an understatement.

As I grew deeper in my Catholic faith as I discovered what the Church had always taught on moral questions such as contraception, I started to question many of my prior libertarian assumptions. Having children, raising them, hoping for their future, and trying to provide for them, teaches one lessons one can learn no where else. I looked at my grandfather's America, and spoke with people of his generation, and learned a few things.

Unions, for instance, provide a reasonable amount of job security and wage security for workers. These workers are thus able to maintain and pay for traditional family life. If one overlays two graphs, one of union membership, and one of instances of traditional family life, and puts one on top of the other, it becomes crystal clear that as unions have declined and men's wages have stagnated and job security has vanished, so too traditional family life has declined. Charles Murray and other libertarians would argue that these declines were not caused by economic stagnation. I would reply that these people obviously know no one who is uneducated trying to make a living in America. My grandfather got through 8th grade, joined the Navy, became a teamster, sent 3 girls to college with cash, bought a house, supported a wife who stayed home with the kids, and sent the kids to catholic schools throughout. Try that today. It is simply one hundred percent impossible, and the libertarians and their anti-union anti-worker globalist sentiment undoing tariffs, reasonable immigration laws, etc. etc. are a big part of the reason.

This book cogently, and thoroughly, examines the history of libertarian thought, the published ideas of many libertarians. It is a cogent book, intelligently written, and has been read and lauded by many intellectuals, all to the chagrin of the so called "catholic" libertarian crowd, who have heaped scorn upon its author, mocked his intelligence, and mocked the intelligence of those who would have the temerity to disagree with their ahistorical and untried agenda.

I have come to believe, 100%, that the unfettered free market agenda of the Acton Institute, and Tom Woods, and others, is intrinsically linked with the spreading of the culture of death and the decline of the family. Books like this are a MUCH needed antidote to extreme right wing libertarianism, which is ahistorical and has never been tried, and is therefore purely ideological in nature.

This reader happens to be a republican, and I am deeply concerned about the future of my party, a party that has become contemptuous of science, compromise, and reason, and is only married to an ideological economic vision that is increasingly extreme and unbalanced. I hope to see President Obama, and his HHS mandate, and his war on the unborn, defeated in this election. But my party will be weakened and will be unable to do so if it continues to fly into the arms of extremism and libertarian anarchistic fantasies.

And even if the party is successful, the vision it will offer voters will be relatively hopeless, and in four years we will simply flip flop again. The time for real leadership is now. The time to rediscover Christianity and what it has always taught about justice is now. This book is very important, and it ought to be widely read.
21 people found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 18, 2012
This book reminds me of John Maynard Keynes'  The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (Great Minds Series)  in that it is so full of deception, deceit, dishonesty, dissembling and cunning sophistry that it would take another book of at least equal length to unravel the rhetoric and reveal the truth, which the author has worked so hard to distort or destroy. In the case of Keynes' GT, Henry Hazlitt eventually took on that monumental task and debunked virtually everything Keynes had written in his GT. Hazlitt essentially buried Keynesian economics with his brilliant rebuttal entitled,  The Failure Of The New Economics: An Analysis Of The Keynesian Fallacies (1959) , which was published a full 25 years after the GT first appeared. It took that long to fully unmask Keynes' intricate deception, and it would probably take that long and great effort to do justice to the enormous number of elaborate and crafty distortions in this book. However, Keynes' book was received and adored by the proponents of government spending, so it gained some popularity, and thus Hazlitt's book was called for to squelch the patronizing ardor. This book, on the other hand, is destined to sink quickly into well-earned oblivion of its own weight, so a full rebuttal would only be a waste of time. Ferrara's book is currently (9/18/12) ranked #2,342,143 on Amazon's list of (is this # possibly the worst?) best sellers, so even such a negative review as this will mean nothing.

This book is religio-statist polemic attacking the anarcho-libertarian concept that people should be free from state or church control. Although the author professes to be a Catholic, his real religion is clearly statolatry, a word coined by one of the giants of Austrian economics, Ludwig von Mises, who along with Murray Rothbard are central characters in the author's attack-dog diatribe. Statolatry, or worship of the state, is undisguised in this author's theology. The State, he says, "is divinely ordained and an inescapable fact of the human condition, [which] conforms itself to the objective moral order and the objective requirements of justice." (p. 99) Those who believe the state of Cambodia under Pol Pot, the state of Russia under Joseph Stalin, the state of Germany under Adolh Hitler and the state of China under Chairman Mao were all divinely ordained may want to read this book. Those who doubt the almighty state was created by Almighty God, and doubt Ferrera was divinely inspired to write this book, wont bother to read it.
13 people found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 3, 2012
When one reflects on the history of Austrian economics, one can't help but think of the story of the early Church. The unorthodox school was started in the late nineteenth century Austria--though its adherents claim that some of its insights were appreciated long before by the Spanish scholastics. Carl Menger and Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk provided the material for the later synthesis by Ludwig von Mises; Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek was also a member of the school. During this first wave, the Austrians were taken quite seriously, but their popularity waned as defense of the free market fell out of favor. Mises, who was Jewish, was compelled to leave, first Austria, then Switzerland, making his way to the United States. There he reworked his opus, publishing Human Action to little fanfare in 1949.

It would be a misnomer to insist that things looked grim for the Austrian school, because there was no school at this time: it was just Mises. But the last knight of liberalism managed to secure a job teaching at NYU through the Volker fund. The disciples he gathered there were able to ensure that his system would not be regulated to the dustbin of history. Today, the Ludwig von Mises Institute provides articles, books and courses furthering the cause of the Austrian school of economics. Thanks to the advocacy of congressman Ron Paul, the teachings of this school are reaching a large audience.

Enter Christopher Ferrara with his book, The Church and the Libertarian, in which he seeks to combat the errors of the Austrians, be they economic or ethical. He also provides a defense of Church teaching, utilizing various encyclicals from Rerum Novarum through Caritas in Veritate. This Ferrara does exceedingly well. His attempts to correct the errors of the Austrians, however, are less successful--though here, too, he makes some valid points.

To understand Ferrara's criticism, we have to know a bit more about the Austrians and their system of economics. They insist that economics is an a priori science, deducible from some basic axioms about man, most importantly that humans act to satisfy wants with scarce means. An entire corpus of thought has emerged from the careful deduction of Mises and his disciples. However, because the science is a priori, it cannot be disproved by empirical evidence; the Austrians insist that any criticisms must be leveled at the theoretical edifice they have erected.

One of the staples of Misesian thought is that, in economics, value is subjective. When I exchange my money for a beer, I do so, not because the beer's value is equal to the money I hand over, but because I value the beer more than the money; contrariwise, the bar values my money more than the beer. It follows that any non-coercive exchange is mutually beneficial; despite their supposed value neutrality, there is a clear preference for allowing such exchanges to take place by Austrian adherents. One of Ferrara's better criticisms is that, since man must work in order to live, he may be compelled to work for a pittance, even if the wage is far from just. In other words, compulsion might not always come from the State.

Mises most famous--or infamous--disciple, was Murray Rothbard, who took the Misesian approach further than the master himself, waxing eloquently in defense of anarcho-capitalism. Rothbard makes use of the natural law tradition, and thus has a certain appeal for Catholics--or, at least, Thomists. However, he reinterprets the right to property, conditional for St. Thomas (Summa Theologica II-II, Q66, A7) as an absolute right. Rothbard was no doubt concerned that a conditional right to property would allow statism to sneak in the back door. Yet he forgets that the right to property stems from the right to life, without which it is bereft of meaning. Moreover, as Ferrara points out, Rothbard's conception of rights fails to consider the duties incumbent upon us in the exercise of these rights: "Gone are the first precept of the natural law--to do good and to avoid evil--along with the Ten Commandments." Rothbard's curious interpretation leads him to some equally curious conclusions, as that a pregnant woman has no obligation to her child, born or unborn. Such teachings should be intolerable to Christians everywhere.

If Ferrara is sound in his criticisms of Austrian ethics--he similarly disposes of Mises's utilitarianism--he seems to have failed to grok some essential components of Austrian economics. It does not follow that, because the school has made errors, none of its teachings can be of use to the Church. Yet that is the impression one gets in reading some of the strange, and incorrect, categorizations of Austrian tenants.

For instance, the Austrians teach that preferences can be ranked on ordinal scales. As such, any statements we make about preferences will be qualitative, not quantitative. Presently, I prefer writing this review to, say, reading Chesterton. This does not mean that my preference for writing as against reading Chesterton has some sort of mathematical ratio, only that the former exceeds the latter. Attempting to comment on this, Ferrara writes: "The attempt to create a ordinal rankings in such cases produces complex set operations expressed in mathematical symbols, charts ranking all possible combinations of goods and the needs they satisfy in order of preference, and Venn diagrams expressing the "set difference" between subsets of wants." One wonders whether Ferrara managed to read any Austrian economics at all. Perhaps the definitive characteristics of Human Action is the total absence of either equations or graphs in a nine-hundred page economic treatise. Criticizing the Austrians for bringing mathematics into the matter would be like chiding Keynes for too much clarity in his General Theory. In fact, it is precisely because of the inability to extract equalities from subjective scales of utility that Mises argued that economic calculation in a socialist commonwealth would be fundamentally impossible.

Ferrara similarly stumbles in his critique of Austrian business cycle theory. For those inclined, the best explanation comes from Rothbard's America's Great Depression, available at the Mises website. Briefly, the combination of an inflationary central bank and the system of fractional reserve banking allows money to flow into the economy. Entrepreneurs mistake this for an increase in real wealth, and a cluster of business errors manifests itself in a particular sector of the economy--thus we had a housing boom, especially in cities such as Las Vegas. When the central bank tightens the money spigot, the entrepreneurs realize that they have made mistakes; resources have been misallocated, and the economy must rebalance itself--housing prices must fall and those employed building houses must find other jobs. Ferrara insists that greed alone was sufficient to cause the housing bubble, forgetting that the money needed to originate somewhere in order to drive prices up to bubble levels.

Undoubtedly there was much greed in certain sector of the economy; but there was greed in other non-bubble sectors, too, so greed alone cannot be sufficient cause. Moreover, not everyone who bought a house at bubble prices was greedy; the pernicious effects of Federal Reserve policy wrought destruction even on honest entrepreneurs and consumers. It's difficult to insist that Austrian teaching was not thoroughly vindicated by the latest crisis. Moreover, since the entire system of fractional reserve banking is inherently fraudulent, and therefore immoral, one would think an orthodox Catholic would see the Austrians as allies, at least on this point.

One last caveat: at times, Ferrara's categorization of the Austrians borders on caricature. He writes: "Nowhere, however, does one find an Austrian recognition of the intrinsic affinities of Big Business, Big Government and Big Finance." Yet, as the man he denigrates as Pope Murray I writes in For a New Liberty: "Big business support for the Corporate Welfare-Warfare State is so blatant and so far-ranging, on all levels from the local to the federal, that even many conservatives have had to acknowledge it, at least to some extent." The Austrian emphasizes reducing the scope of Big Government not necessarily because he is insensible to the abuses of Big Business, but because he believes that removing Big Government support would render those abuses negligible.

Ferrara's righteous indignation prevents him from seeing that which is good in the teaching that so upsets him. The Austrians are quite sound on money, and there is nothing in business cycle theory that necessitates condemnation by the Magisterium. This mars the quality of his book. Yet there is undeniably much good that remains. His demolition of Rothbard's system of ethics is total, and he offers a thorough defense of Catholic social teaching, as well as some non-political steps toward reform. His book is a must for anyone, Catholic or otherwise, who has fallen under the influence of Mises and his followers.
42 people found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 13, 2016
This has to be the single best book on Catholic Social Teaching written in recent times. Don't let the title fool you--it's less about the Libertarians and more about authentic, orthodox Catholic Social Teaching as it should be understood and applied vs. how the Austro-Libertarians twist it and/or ignore it to suit their ends. By the time you've finished reading it, you'll be an expert on CST and how it applies to the modern world.

If you really want to understand the modern world, and your place in it, read Ferrara's works. All of them.
One person found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 31, 2016
A prequel to his book "Liberty the god that failed". Both books, and hopefully a 3rd of this group will be penned, are worthy of your bookshelf especially for the information that you'll obtain from them.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 27, 2011
Mr. Ferrara has done a wonderful job. His book, The Church and the Libertarian, offers an exacting critique and dismantling of the School of Austrian Economics and libertarianism being dangerously put forth by the likes of Thomas Woods, Jeffrey Tucker, et al. He shows how the Austrian school a la Rothbard and Von Mises, which is based on classical and economic liberalism, is utterly opposed to the social doctrine of the church.

I highly recommend this book to those seeking to understand the Church's traditional social teaching and how it can be applied in the economic sphere.
8 people found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 17, 2011
As someone who converted from Objectivism to Catholicism in 2004, and acquired much of his economic knowledge from the Austrian School before his conversion, I was particularly interested in this book, which questions the claims of Austrian economics in the name of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Soon after my conversion, I had read Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s «The Church and the Market», and I thought that it had settled the issue: I did not need to scuttle everything I understood about economics, economics was a science, and I could keep it just as I could keep my knowledge of evolutionary theory or any other science.

However, things may be a little more complex than I used to think. Ferrara does agree with much of what the Austrians have to say, but he also shows that, whenever they impinge on ethics or politics (often under the guise of doing «value-free» science), they go against Church teaching. Ludwig von Mises, the leading figure of the movement, after whom the Mises Institute was named, was a strongly anti-Christian secular Jew. And even though Woods and Llewellyn Rockwell are self-professed Catholics, they hold positions on social issues that do seem to be at variance with the Magisterium.

The problem with Ferrara's book, though, is that it fails to actually refute Austrian economics per se. Ferrara is fond of repeating that Woods does not have a degree in economics (he «only» has a PhD in history), but he himself is no expert on the subject and he even warns readers that «this book is not concerned with `economics' as an academic discipline involving such technical matters as supply and demand curves and schedules» (p11.) But unfortunately, though Austrians often advocate a brash toleration of immoral conduct in the name of «market efficiency» or because, almost systematically, they absolutise «liberty» and are a-moralists (if not outright immoralists), Ferrara himself often advocates economic policies that fly in the face of economic principles and are therefore totally unworkable and, therefore, utopian (something he himself accuses Austrian proposals of being; e.g. p39.)

Most egregiously, Ferrara fails to understand that the important thing is not how high wages are (he often attacks Austrians for being callously indifferent to that), but how much purchasing power wage earners have. Nominal wages are irrelevant, and increasing them is pointless if doing so causes an even higher increase in the prices of consumer goods. Ferrara's blindness to this issue leads him to mock the Austrians' opposition to «any sort of return to the guilds, as it would undercut their beloved model of big business providing unbeatable prices» (p295 ; much of the book is written in this sarcastic tone, though Ferrara himself says the Austrians «often resort to ridicule instead of... reason» p228.) But «unbeatable prices» are precisely what gives wage-earners more purchasing power : if prices fall faster than wages, this can even mean that wage-earners become richer though their wages are dropping, which is what should occur in a free market. But though these are two sides of the same coin, Ferrara seems to consider that caring about higher wages is noble, while caring about low prices is base (he waxes lyrical about «communities who believe in value higher than `unbeatable prices'» p294.)

Reading this, I thought that with that kind of reasoning, Ferrara would be very much in favour of a return to the Arts and Crafts Movement. And in fact, he advocates such a revival on page 300. Now I think that esthetically speaking, this movement was laudable, and I wish we could all live in houses and use furniture and everyday utensils that were beautiful, hand-made works of art. But the Arts and Craft Movement was much too expensive for the lower classes, and only produced luxuries for the upper classes.

Ferrara's oblivousness to the issue of purchasing power is also blatant in his support for distributism. The problem with distributism is that the more you shop locally, the higher prices rise, mostly because you eschew economies of scale (a phrase which I do not remember reading in the book : Ferrara just assumes Austrians have a «fetish for bigness.») And as George Reisman brilliantly shows in his book «Capitalism», if you eliminate the middlemen, you also increase transaction costs and final prices. However counter-intuitive this might seem, intermediaries actually help lower prices. If you want a practical demonstration of that, try avoiding supermarkets for a month, and see how much time and money you waste patronising local stores.

One of the more annoying techniques Ferrara uses to criticise Austrian economics is to say very early on that « in the real world », free markets are not free (sic), because businesses will manage to divert government power to their own ends. From then on, whenever he uses the term free market, he puts the adjective free in inverted commas, thereby arguing simultaneously that (1) Austrian free markets are not really free ; and (2) the so-called free market (which is actually what Austrians call a «mixed economy», when they do not go overboard and call it socialism), is full of problems. This objection, however, is invalid. In Austrian economics, the free market is a theoretical concept which can be shown to work in a certain way. You cannot equate that model with a real-world economy that does not fit the description and say that it invalidates the model. You have to show logical inadequacies in the model itself. This Ferrara fails to do. And the hundred or so occurrences of the phrase «the `free' market» soon become very irritating.

There are numerous other logical fallacies in the book. For instance, Ferrara claims that Austrians do not understand that human labour is productive, because of their claim that capital is what actually increases the productivity of labour. But to argue that a man with a caterpillar is more productive than a man with a spoon (which, to me, sounds rather obvious), does not mean that one can dispense with human labour, as Ferrara claims Austrians do (p181.) He then makes the totally irrational statement that «capital contributes nothing to output as such since there is zero output without the labor force that utilizes the capital factors to make products» (p187.) This is about as absurd as claiming that a chef contributes nothing to a meal since there would be no meal without ingredients.

On page 195, Ferrara accuses Austrians of having double standards because they «argue hat there is no such thing as an underpaid employee [or...] an overpaid executive!» But this is making Austrians sound worse than they actually are. First, their argument would only apply in a free market, and all we have currently on the planet is at best mixed economies. And second, Austrians would also argue that there is no such thing as an overpaid employee or an underpaid executive, because their position is that the market price is the just price. So no double standards there.

On page 208, Austrians are blamed for ignoring « the individual free will and moral accountability of economic actors » and falling prey to a fallacy Ferrara calls «`but for' causation» : «`but for' the hunting rifle... Smith would not have killed himself. Therefore, the hunting rifle is `the' cause of Smith's death.» Now isn't that precisely the fallacy Ferrara himself committed when he argued that capital contributes nothing to productivity since « but for » human labour, there would be zero output ? And what about his lament over the « millions of people `capitalist food' has literally crippled or killed with disease » (p293) ?

Ferrara also has a problem with the concept of « utilitarianism ». Not only is his working definition too broad (whoever cares about the consequences of his actions is labelled a utilitarian or consequentialist), but any position that he thinks can be said to smack of utilitarianism is, in his mind, ipso facto refuted. This is embarrassing, because such a master of Catholic moral theology as Germain Grisez, who wrote very strong refutations of consequentialism and proportionalism, admits that in some cases, goods may actually be commensurable and weighing them may therefore be the right thing to do. One important case in which Ferrara's use of the «utilitarian» defense is totally unwarranted is in his attempted refutal of the Austrian argument against unions. This argument is simply that unions may succeed in raising wages for their members, but at the cost of lower wages or unemployment for non-members. Ferrara dismisses that as consequentialism. But if the causal claim made by the Austrians is true, then are we not accepting systemic injustice in our societies by letting unions have their way ? Do not such consequences morally matter ?

Ferrara rather disingenuously introduction John Locke as an « American colonial slave-owner » (p18 ; Locke did have « investments in two slave-trading companies in the Carolinas » p21, but he is best described as an English philosopher, and he never set foot in North America, as far as I know) and as « one of the founders of utilitarianism » (p58.) Wrong hemisphere, wrong century !

Some other problems are much more fundamental. Ferrara, like many critics of Adam Smith, is contemptuous of the «invisible hand» (chapter 7), meaning that he does not believe that individual agents in a free market can generate any kind of order merely by pursuing their own profit. However, there are several market laws that show that this is exactly what happens. For instance, the rate of profit will tend to equalise throughout the economy, avoiding systemic overproduction. And prices freely determined by supply and demand will serve as so many indicators of what to produce, what trade to engage in, where to invest, what consumers want, what raw materials should be preferred to what, etc. If predation can result in balanced ecosystems, as the modern advocates of rewilding have convincingly shown, is it not at least conceivable that free human choices in a free market can result in an orderly system ?

Ferrara, not understanding just how brilliant a system of free-market prices is, seems to favour a Scholastic-inspired order in which «the valuation [i.e. the setting of prices] could be made reasonably and justly determined by the community» (p141.) I can only see that that would result in serious misallocations of resources, if it were at all workable (but maybe I am just being consequentialist.)

Like the Popes (and this makes me wary of criticising him on this point), Ferrara also advocates a « family wage », in which employers would pay employees enough to support their families. But I fail to see how this could work. Under such a system, would not employers favour, say, transsexuals and homosexuals over traditional Catholics because they are more likely to cost less to support in the long term ? Would not the system perversely encourage contraception, abortion and sterilisation because large families make workers overpriced ? Even if Austrian talk of the workers' DMVP (discounted marginal value product) as determining their wages were invalid or overgeneralised, it seems just that what the employee actually has to offer to his employer, rather than his needs, should determine his wages. The XXth Century Motor Company in «Atlas Shrugged» is a good parable of that.

There are probably more detailed refutations of Ferrara's attack on Austrian economics on the Web, by more qualified persons than me. Suffice it to say that the book, beside drawing my attention to very anti-Catholic Austrian utterances outside the strictly economic field (such as «Catholic» Austrian Jeffrey Tucker defending mothers selling their children to homosexual couples) and introducing me to the very promising economist Wilhem Röpke (with whom I seem to be more in agreement than Ferrara himself, as I do believe in the possibility of human overpopulation), it has not won me over to the feasibility of distributism or «the living wage» or any other of its proposals. I do agree with Ferrara's overall assessment of our modern markets, which have «destroyed morals, and turned once Christian nations into 24/7 consumers of immoral and unhealthy trash» (p4) and I second his calls for prohibition of «the sale of immoral `goods' such as abortion pills, deadly drugs like heroin and PCP, contraceptives and pornography... as well as the provision of immoral `services' such as abortion and prostitution» (p277.) In fact, I would even ban tobacco, most alcohol (except for eucharistic or medical use), most modern culture and fashion, junk food and (as a vegan) all animal products, and I would close all bars and nightclubs, so I am much more of a prohibitionist than he is. But he hasn't convinced me that whatever should be allowed to be produced should be produced by anything else than the (otherwise) free market.


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Might Biden be a Liar & Predator like McCarrick?

September 15, 2020   Everyone knows that sexual predator ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a liar. His whole life was a lie of betrayal of the most sacred vows he took and the violation of the moral tenets of the Catholic faith which he desecrated. Most people don't realize that part of this desecration of lies included lying for "gravely sinful" Democrats like Joe Biden. McCarrick protected Biden when then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to be Pope Benedict XVI) wrote that bishops were not to admit to Communion politicians like "gravely sinful" Biden who supports the killing of unborn babies. McCarrick lied for politicians like Biden by ignoring the important parts of the Ratzinger letter and told bishops not to ignore the Catholic Church law.  Last year, Fr. Robert Morey denied Holy Communion to the “gravely sinful” Biden following a "2004 decree signed jointly by the bishops of