I feel very lucky to have found my way to Catholicism. It wasn't inevitable. I might have been born a Muslim or a Sikh. I might have been caught up in Scientology. I might have been the student of an atheist professor. I might have found myself a dialectical materialist or a born-again Baptist or a Unitarian or a Mormon. There are brainier people than me in all these categories. How did I get so lucky? I suppose the Catholic answer has to be: by the Grace of God.
I make no pretence of being non-judgemental. What is the good of having judgement if we don't exercise it? So, I don't regard all of the alternatives as being equally inferior to Catholicism. Being a Baptist is, in my view, far far better than being a dialectical materialist, which is scarcely better than being a psychopath. A psychopath, on the other hand, seems to have the excuse of having something wrong with his brain.
The great thing, for me, about being a Catholic is that it is consonant with Common Sense and with Intuition, neither of which, admittedly, in the era of quantum mechanics, is terribly reliable. Catholicism is consonant with Reason, with a teleological world view and with a fundamentally moralistic outlook. It is not consonant with Historicism (the idea that History reveals its purpose and direction) or with Scientism (the idea that Science is the only way we have of understanding the world).
Is this all rather circular? Might you say to me, "Beeby, you would be an odd sort of Catholic if you didn't have a teleological world view? Catholicism and dialectical materialism cannot logically co-exist in the same mind." Touché!
It's in the somewhat less obvious realms of thought, Politics, Economics, Education and Aesthetics that I am constantly finding myself saying, "Yes, that is clearly so. And that fits perfectly with Catholicism!" I have what you might regard as a naive confidence that no obviously true assertion, no convincing argument will ever conflict with Catholicism.
I clearly have not wriggled out of your accusation of circularity. "Beeby," you will say, "you are not going accept as true any assertion that conflicts with Catholicism. You will never be convinced by an argument that does not conform to Catholic belief." Touché again!
I had better give an example of what I am talking about. As readers of this blog will know, I have belatedly become interested in Economics – particularly the Economics of the Austrian school: von Mises, Hayek, Murray Rothbard and their followers. All this after my conversion to Catholicism. It turns out that some of these people (for example, Thomas Woods and Gerard Casey), though not von Mises or Rothbard, I think, are Catholics. Both Woods and Casey have written scholarly works on Theology.
The Austrians are strongly opposed to the Keynesians for utterly convincing philosophical and historical reasons. The Keynesians believe in a large measure of state interference in a nation's economy and deficit spending by government to stimulate economic activity. The Austrians demonstrate (with their praxeological method) that state interference (eg, high taxes, manipulation of interest rates, deliberate inflation and detailed regulation) can only have a bad effect on the economy as a whole. Then, as historians, they show how time and again state interference has only ever had bad effects on the economy as a whole, though not (at least in the short term) for all members of the economy. They have predicted boom and bust cycles, created by interference with interest rates, and have been vindicated when these have come to pass, exactly as predicted. They are very strong on the unintended, unforeseen consequences of interference in the form of high taxation, price controls and minimum wage laws etc.
The Austrians believe in private property rights and the rule of law. The Keynesians believe in theft by taxation and inflation. Some Austrians have severe doubts about Democracy; though they would oppose any form of tyranny. Indeed they regard the re-distribution of wealth by majority governments as tyranny.
I have long been of the view that Democracy is the least bad form of government that has ever been tried. I am now of the opinion that it is pretty bad. Indeed, it is unsustainable. C S Lewis maintains that the justification for Democracy is not that the electorate is so wise and virtuous that they should be in control but that no small group is wise enough and virtuous enough to be entrusted with power. But the populace habitually votes for politicians who will increase their entitlements (ie taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive). A certain remarkable goose comes to mind and her fate at the hands of a stupid greedy farmer.
Well, I am with the Austrians all the way. Pray God that the Keynesians' time is coming to an end.
What's all this got to do with Catholicism?
Here are some fundamental Catholic teachings, some of which we share with other Christians and with Jews, some with Muslims:
The Image of God
We are made in the image of God. Therefore:
- We have Reason
God is the only possible source of Reason
Materialism negates it
- We have Free Will
Materialism, of course, denies us Free Will
- We are Creative
How could creatures without Reason and Free Will possibly create anything?
If we are not made in the image of God, none of the above could be true. But they all are!
If we are not made in God's image, all of the above would be fantasies. Materialists would like to lay claim to Reason and perhaps Creativity but they admit that, on their grounds, Free Will is impossible.
They're stuffed. Some of them are clever... An odd case of the cleverer the stupider.
Back to Economics: almost all Human Action involves transactions between humans. In every case Free Will and Reason are involved. Without Creativity (production) wealth creation would be impossible.
We can't (famously) argue from is to should.
So, why can't Catholics be Keynesians and why is Catholicism consonant with Austrian Economics?
Catholicism teaches that each of us is free to reject God's Grace. We may say, "Thanks, but no thanks." We may protest, "Infinite Father, Loving Creator, I don't want this freedom. Just save me and let's be done." We may say, "Thy will be done."
The Austrians teach that we are hourly faced with economic choices, that the creativity of the entrepreneur is the only source of wealth.
I have ordered The Church and the Market by Tom Woods and am looking forward to reading it. Perhaps I shall have more to say on this subject when I have.
BTW I am using a Word 2007 blogging template for the first time. This means that I can post to the blog from within Word. Will it work?