Friday, December 23, 2016

Netflix On Banking and Usury

Now that the oldest bank in the world is dying, a bank started over 500 years ago in compliance with Catholic teaching,  Netflix purports to tell the story.  Here comes a typical view;
The Netflix series shows the Medici family scrupulously avoiding what was considered to be Usury. This was condemned from the earliest years of the faith, but this condemnation ended in the 16th century, liberalized in law by the 18th century, and is today not even an issue. It is hardly talked about at all apart from perfunctory warnings against usury (and what the difference between interest and usury is precisely has never been spelled out).
Nonsense.  That Catholic church today still teaches usury, clearly defined as any loan for any duration at any rate for any amount, as a grave sin, mortal even.
As even the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia said: the Church “permits the general practice of lending at interest, that is to say, she authorizes the impost, without one’s having to enquire if, on lending his money, he has suffered a loss or deprived himself of a gain, provided he demand a moderate interest for the money he lends.”
Ignorant.  First, the Catholic Encyclopedia is not a Church teaching document.  It is a Knights of Columbus gig, usurers themselves.  That Catholics violate church teaching is nothing new, some 85% reject church teaching on contraception, so what if 99.999% reject it on usury?  Next, clearly this entry is in regards to the old sense of interest as a loss recovered, not a gain on an investment.
One of the earliest statements against interest comes from the Council of Nicea, which sought to crack down on avaricious practices among the clergy, among which was lending money at a profit. The Council condemned this and other attempts at “dishonourable gain.”
Substantive basis from scripture.
The war against interest was a war against basic economic logic.And thus began a long tragic history of the Catholic Church’s 1000-year war against interest and the money-lending profession. And it is a strange war indeed, one undertaken with little to no substantive basis from scripture (the above hardly suffices)
His parenthetical note reveals he is aware there is far more in scripture on the topic.  Intellectually dishonest!
Attacking lenders as heretics contradicts normal commercial dealings. It even contradicts Jesus’s own parable of the talents, which presumes and praises the existence of money lenders and condemns the failure to give them idle money as profligacy itself.
This is just bad exegesis. All religious contradictions are on what is normal. As to contradicting Jesus, first, it is a leap to assume the wicked master meting out punishment represents God, and not just a pedestrian wicked master; and next one never takes a sole item in the bible against overwhelming contrary scripture.

The writer goes on to rehash Noonan's arguments, and then,
Since those times, there has been no real debate in the Church on this question. Yes, usury continues to be warned against, though no one makes the attempt any more to distinguish between interest and usury. They were once considered synonymous; today they are distinguished as a reflection of a continuing bias against lenders who would seem to display more avarice than charity in their work. But in practice, there is no clear difference. What’s more, even seemingly usurious loan rates serve a social function: the higher the rate of interest, the more saving is encouraged and borrowing discouraged.
More ignorance, they are NOW considered synonymous, they were once opposites.  The etymology tells you that, underlying historical use.
Economics is not the primary domain of Church competence in any case, and sometimes the line that separates economic theory from faith and morals can become blurry indeed. If nothing else, this history should instill a bit of humility on the part of Church teachers, and a cautionary point as regards economics and other sciences.
O dear.  Loans at usury are a crime.  This is a matter of faith and morals.  An economics writer should exercise a bit of humility in regards to church teachings on faith and morals.
And yet, without exception, when a plague would appear, people would blame the Medicis because, surely, this is the wrath of God against the usurers. Of course! Yes, the 15th century had its own Occupy Wall Street movement.
The world is still awaiting someone to trace the path of paper currency and the black death that rode on the notes. Yhe article is poorly edited, methinks whoever wrote this did so in a rush.

O dear me!  I criticized this in progress, without knowing who wrote it.  Jeffrey Tucker, a fellow Catholic I have met a few times ay Austian conferences.  He is a solid figure in the Austrian School of Economics, with many accomplishments to his name.  So none of what he says surprises me, but his defense now runs to the disingenuous. And sloppy writing.

But many Catholics celebrate the defeat of doctrine.  On the left they claim the Church is wrong on contraception, on the right they claim the Church is wrong on usury.  Both are wrong.

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