Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A thought on Catholic Economics.

Unfortunately I've been busy moving house the last few weeks and haven't been able to devote much time to blogging. In my previous post, an annonymous commentator was critical of my support of some aspects of Protestantism, particularly its work ethic. Now I'm not sectarian, and from perspective can see various problems with Protestantism, I can also see its virtues.  Commentator anonymous said:
Their much vaunted work ethic is generally no more than glorified avarice, an attitude more worthy of Shylock than a man who calls himself a Christian. During the Ages of Faith the people were given a great many Holydays throughout the year, they not only weren't made to work, but would be guilty of sin if they did. This was much better than the frenzy of modern people who go about foaming at the mouth to get more money to buy more useless chinese-made rubbish. If they were Catholics rather than pagans, they might remember Our Blessed Lord's words "What doth it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul."
Wealthy economies are not simply made by working hard. For prosperity to ensure a whole lot of ancillary virtues must pre-exist. Things like honesty, punctuality, suppression of envy, etc must exist as well. Catholic South America is dysfunctional not because of a lack of work ethic, but because an absence of an honesty, punctuality and scientific ethic. Being Catholic does not seem to have protected the South American elite from the sin of avarice.

And wealth doesn't just give cars and big houses. It allows medical research, MRI scanners, proper sewerage, electricity that is reliable, the provision of running water, good quality food etc.

I don't have time to elaborate on this tonight but here's a good essay by a man who pretty much shares the same mind with me on  the subject.

I'll reply to comments if I can.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Protestant countries were in the north, and northern Europeans have slightly higher IQ then southern europeans.

This is a better explanation then " protestent work ethic".

margaretthatcher said...

All we got from those hard working protestants in the north was imperial aggression and two world wars. Fuck the protestants. Northern europeans know how to work, southern europeans know how to live. I'd rather live than work and so would any sane human being.

Ingemar said...

Q: Who started World War One?

A: Not a Northern European. It started when some non-Protestants assasinated another non-Protestant.

Mike T said...

Ingemar, margaretthatcher is a troll. I'm going with that in order to be charitable since the alternative explanation is that she is a moron who isn't fit to teach a parakeet to whistle a tune.

Anonymous said...

The one consistent comment I get from recent immigrants to Australia from Eastern and Southern Europe is their shock at the amount work Aussies do.

They complain about the lack of life balance but forget why they are here in the first place.

heythatsmycar said...

SP, this is a fascinating topic and one that I find myself reflecting on often (my wife and I are Catholic, but I'm a Kiwi and raised in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, while she is Chilean and from a strong Catholic background in that country). So here are some of my thoughts...Dysfunction in South American economies is the result of culture and history...

I think one finds in latino Catholicism a strong emphasis on detachment from the vicissitudes of life. Something good happens to you, well then thank God for His blessings. If something bad happens, just keep your faith. All of this results in a "win some, lose some" attitude to money and a disregard for building lasting wealth.

The dishonesty and corruption is a curious thing. Latin societies are much less individualistic than the Protestant/Anglo-Saxon ones. Family, personal relationships and tradition are highly valued. Nepotism flourishes in such an environment. The trouble is that Latins see themselves as being loyal and generous when they are blatantly bending the rules to suit friends.

As for history, we need to remember that following their independence from Spain in the early 19th century, the South American countries were backwaters in the global economy for over 100 years. Europe and North America industrialised and developed enormously during this period and dominated world trade. When the rich world finally took notice of South America in the early 20th century, they found a number of pliable oligarchical governments who were happy to trade control of their natural resources for privileges and cash.

It was this highly exploitative state of affairs that feed left wing radicals and lead to revolutionary movements across the continent, and the brutal military regimes of the 60s, 70s, and 80s which sought to control them. This breakdown of civil order did not bode well for economic development. Only in the last 20 years, with democratisation, have South American economies truly begun to build lasting economic development.

margaretthatcher said...

Good luck trying to resurrect a Christian Capitalist kingdom. That time is long gone and the kings are dead and buried. Capitalism is moving on, it is embracing science and technology as gods because they feed it's life force - innovation, success against the competition. Morals are not coming back because they are irrelevant, except where they serve business. These are not diseases of the left, they are not bugs, they are features - of the system we live in.

You guys are very confused, you don't know what you want. Do you want Christianity or do you want Capitalism? You don't even want to make a choice but in the meantime you're trying to plug the dam with your fingers. Your fanatical ideology (Austrian economics) will be your downfall, because it's so tempting to be self righteous. And it allows you to be that. But it will force you make the choice, and probably most of you will choose capitalism. In your hearts many of you already have, because there is no turning back. You just haven't been asked the question yet, and by then it will be too late.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Anon 1:41

northern Europeans have slightly higher IQ then southern europeans.

And Asians have slightly higher IQ's than Northern Europeans yet they remained economically backward until they started adopting European ideas about economics. Culture can negate a lot of high IQ.

@MargaretThatcher

Northern europeans know how to work, southern europeans know how to live.

And the Southern Europeans need to learn to work a bit more and the Northern Europeans need to learn how to live a bit.

Christianity is not hostile to Capitalism but it is hostile to money worship. There is a difference.

@Anon at 9:05.
I can vouch for that.

@heythatsmycar

Thanks for dropping in.

There are some really important issues that are raised by your comment. Firstly, with regard to South American economics, Argentina was a economic powerhouse at the beginning of the 20th Century. What killed it was populist Peronism (i.e Democracy). A successful economic order needs a stable bourgeois class and it's my opinion that Catholicism is profoundly hostile to that group (as opposed to Protestantism). Hence, Catholic societies tend to polarise into elites and masses, while Protestant cultures tend to have less division.

Secondly, Catholic "detachment" may be more a habit born of powerlessness rather than philosophy. A man is accepting of the things he can't control, not the things he can. I think Catholicism is biased towards taking away a persons "locus of control" and hence they become passive. One of the things I noticed in the former Yugoslavia is just how passive people where when it came to their own choices in life. They had to get permission from the "party" in order to do anything and hence slowly they became habituated to not thinking for themselves and not even trying. Their passivity was a product of culture.

Nepotism is a vice Catholicism is particularly prone to and it is perhaps why it is seen so often in Catholic countries.

I think the exploitation of the Southern American poor by the left happened for the same reason as in Europe. The poor want a better life, the traditional Catholic elites seems unable to provide it and so they are looking to others for solutions. Lacking cognitive skills, the poor pick the snake oil salesman with the best apparent credibility i.e the Marxists and soon find themselves having made a pact with the Devil.

A society is susceptible to Marxism only if its economy and culture are weak.

neutrino-cannon said...

I think this is a very profound and difficult subject. I also don't think there will be easy answers.

Christianity is to some extent a world-denying faith. The question becomes what parts of the worldly experience your religion denies, and what parts it embraces. There is a rather lot to the worldly experience, after all.

For instance I recall a Methodist (I think) sermon concerning the sexual urge. The gist of it was that the sexual urge itself is not evil; it was put there by God to ensure that humanity would be fruitful and multiply.

To be honest, I didn't really listen to the whole sermon, so I have no idea what sort of bargain was struck in the end between the id and the superego. I'm easily distracted.

One of the failings of modern Protestant society, especially the United States (Mencius Moldbug makes a strong argument that even "secular" society in the USA smacks of Protestantism) is that hard work is not seen as a means to an end, but an end unto itself. This is the seed of all manner of dysfunction.

For instance, shouting "get a job!" at a hobo is considered a deep condemnation of their soul.

For instance, having the government spend enormous amounts of money to create utterly pointless "jobs" is considered obviously preferable to having a certain percentage of the population remain unemployed. The only serious disagreement, politically, is how much money ought to be spent and how.

Unemployment is so distressful to the American soul that anything that might salve it is seriously considered as a solution. Have you ever heard anyone earnestly explain how War is good for the economy? They're wrong, but it illustrates that in the USA, there are people to whom market sluggishness is more terrifying than armed conflict.

On the other hand, the development of an advanced economy requires a lot of personal virtues, and this is an area where Protestants clearly excel relative to other cultures.

Populist agitators often compare banking or other finance to a conspiracy perpetuated against whomever it is they're trying to agitate. There is some truth to this, hidden under layers of simple envy, but it misses something important; conspiracies only work if there's trust between the conspirators.

Protestantism, with its strong emphasis on direct personal accountability, makes personal contracts practical. A contract isn't magical; someone has to enforce it if broken. In a society where contracts would be frequently broken or tried, they would necessarily also be rare, and commerce would not blossom. I don't think it's any coincidence that the modern conception of economics comes ultimately from Scottish and Dutch Calvinists.

Jaya Shiva Shambo! said...

The work ethic model of America's future will be the Asian work ethic, along with our increase in the practices of Asian cognitive modalities - its various forms of meditation and self-realization techniques, all of which are on an ever increasing rise, with Buddhism leading the way as the fastest growing religion here.

neutrino-cannon said...

I doubt that somehow, Jaya Shiva Shambo.

For starters, I'm skeptical of the Buddhistness of most American Buddhists.

Spiritual awakening is difficult in the United States, be it Catholic, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, etc, because USians generally see Spirituality as a way to excuse away any selfish and detrimental behaviors they indulge in. Religions that forgive their members, but also hold them to self-improvement and a meaningful social code of behavior, beyond vague platitudes like "acceptance" are generally marginalized and mocked as old-fashioned.

Toad said...

South America isn't so Catholic.

Simón Bolívar
"Bolívar's dream had been to engender an American Revolution-style federation among all the newly independent republics, with a government set up solely to recognize and uphold the rights of the individual."

"Among the books accompanying him as he traveled were, Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations", Voltaire's "Letters" "

Mexican Revolution

1917 Constitution of Mexico

"education shall be maintained entirely apart from any religious doctrine"

"Religious corporations, ministers of religion, stock companies which exclusively or predominantly engage in educational activities, and associations or companies devoted to propagation of any religious creed shall not in any way participate in institutions giving elementary, secondary and normal education"

"Every religious act of public worship must be performed strictly inside places of public worship, which shall at all times be under governmental supervision."

"The federal powers shall exercise the supervision required by law in matters relating to religious worship and outward ecclesiastical forms."

"Marriage is a civil contract."

"The law does not recognize any personality in religious groups called churches."

"Ministers of denominations shall be considered as persons who practice a profession and shall be directly subject to the laws enacted on such matters."

"Ministers of denominations may never, in a public or private meeting constituting an assembly, or in acts of worship or religious propaganda, criticize the fundamental laws of the country or the authorities of the Government, specifically or generally. They shall not have an active or passive vote nor the right to form associations for religious purposes."

"Permission to dedicate new places of worship open to the public must be obtained from the Secretariat of Government, with previous consent of the government of the State. There must be in every church building a representative who is responsible to the authorities for compliance with the laws on religious worship in such building, and for the objects pertaining to the worship."

"Periodical publications of a religious character, whether they be such because of their program, title, or merely because of their general tendencies, may not comment on national political matters or public information on acts of the authorities of the country or of private persons directly related to the functioning of public institutions."

"The formation of any kind of political group, the name of which contains any word or indication whatever that it is related to any religious denomination, is strictly prohibited. Meetings of a political character may not be held in places of worship."

Hugo Chávez

Jaya Shiva Shambo! said...

"I doubt that somehow, Jaya Shiva Shambo.

For starters, I'm skeptical of the Buddhistness of most American Buddhists.

Spiritual awakening is difficult in the United States, be it Catholic, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, etc, because USians generally see Spirituality as a way to excuse away any selfish and detrimental behaviors they indulge in. Religions that forgive their members, but also hold them to self-improvement and a meaningful social code of behavior, beyond vague platitudes like "acceptance" are generally marginalized and mocked as old-fashioned. "

In general you might be correct.

However within the general "Buddhist identified" demographic of Americans, there is a significant number of sincerely practicing Buddhists in the USA who take it very seriously.

Same holds true for us "Neo-Hindus", such as myself.

But my point was not how strict or deep these Americans might be going into their particular Eastern Wisdom Tradition, my point was more along the lines of religious demographic shift.

There is a clear shift away from Christianity and towards EWTs.

Protestant Christianity is now a minority religion here and Buddhism is the fastest growing religion.

However "strict" those Christians or Buddhists may or may not be is secondary to the point.

Jaya Shiva Shambo! said...

And for the anti-Northern European Protestant contigent who thinks the Southern European Catholics were more benevolent and less globally imperialistic, have you not heard of the Doctrine of Discovery?

http://ili.nativeweb.org/sdrm_art.html

The Social Pathologist said...

@Neutrino Cannon

Spiritual awakening is difficult in the United States, be it Catholic, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, etc, because USians generally see Spirituality as a way to excuse away any selfish and detrimental behaviors they indulge in.

Agree. Not just USians but Westerners in general.

Christianity is to some extent a world-denying faith. The question becomes what parts of the worldly experience your religion denies, and what parts it embraces. There is a rather lot to the worldly experience, after all.

Disagree. It's a world affirming faith. It's a religion that affirms the goodness of the created world.

With regard to Protestantism, a difference must be made between sound and unsound variants of it. The problem with Protestantism is that it legitimises all version of it and the mechanism for determining the soundness of any particular variant is left to the individual himself (no matter what their cognitive limitation).

I think modern work worship, I don't think it is a feature of Protestantism itself but rather a prolish corruption of the concept.

For instance, shouting "get a job!" at a hobo is considered a deep condemnation of their soul.


St Paul was pretty clear on this subject. People with the capacity to pull their own weight in society but who do not do so are rightly condemned.

I don't suffer from work-worship but and definitely see the importance of leisure, but I wouldn't underestimate the socially corrosive powers of unemployment, the Brownshirts were filled with men who had no other gainful employment.

@Toad

Bolivar attempts to bring the Protestant enlightenment to the South Americas failed. His desires in no way translated to reality and the Catholic culture is still predominant in South America.

@JayashivaShambo.

Unless Asia changes Asia will implode. Buddhism lacks the power of renewal. Nirvana is achieved through self-extinction not self-assertion. Even Asia thrives on remnant Christian spiritual capital.

Jaya Shiva Shambo! said...

"Even Asia thrives on remnant Christian spiritual capital"

Money?

I don't understand that statement.

Can't speak for East Asia but South and Southeast Asia, where I travel and live much of the time, thrives on its own indigenous spiritual traditions and there are plenty of Westerners such as myself who go there to thrive on it too.

I'm not a Buddhist myself because I personally found my particular sect of Hinduism to be a better fit, but I have researched a number of different religions and their sects first hand, often by going to the countries of their origin.

One positive thing I find happening is that every time I return to the States, the Hindu traditions gain more and more ground and the "yoga scene" goes a step deeper each time.

Example is when I first got into yoga in the states, 3 decades ago, it was an emphasis on asana (the physical only). I found it very difficult to even broach the subject of Yoga Philosophy. However, over the last 3 decades Yoga has exploded and with it, the entire 8 angas or levels are being fleshed out one by one.

Now practically every yoga studio I go to has classes meditation, on Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, sometimes visiting Vedanta scholars, and kirtan is completely taking over California.

People now understand that Yoga is one of the 6 foundational Hindu Philosophies and not exercise and being so devoid of any philosophy here, they are hungry for it!

My Sanskrit studies sure paid off!

Höllenhund said...

Update on Taylor Swift:

reuters.com/article/2013/03/05/entertainment-us-taylorswift-idUSBRE92413520130305

The Social Pathologist said...

Jaya Shiva Shambo

Money?

Not money but culture. Asia, despite its enormous natural wealth and naturally intelligent people remained a backwater till it started importing Western ideas.

Buddhism, with it emphasis on the elimination of desire as a path to happiness leads to a culture which is inward looking and seeks acceptance of things rather self-assertion and self-master over events. The European conquers by actuating his desires, the Asian stagnates by suppressing his. (Note, desire actuation needs to have limits in order to be sustainable.)

As I've mentioned before, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences looked into the issue and came to the same conclusion. It was Christianity which gave the West its power. Its underlying metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings taught men to think a certain way which made them masters of their lives. I'm not just talking about economics here- but with regards to knowledge, institutions, and personal happiness.


Jaya Shiva Shambo! said...

I don't know about Far East Asia, but South Asia was a trade, economic and civilizational powerhouse before foreign invasions and the British Imperialism.

This is of course because of its Hindu ethos which beautifully intertwines dharma (worldly duties) with moksha (liberation).

Indeed, a dharmic life leads to ultimate liberation while still embodied.

This is why dharmic traditions are so attractive to Westerners, they address all levels of being and weave them masterfully.

Never before have we been so blessed with so much access to these traditions has we have today.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
neutrino-cannon said...

Agree. Not just USians but Westerners in general.

I think the first time I noticed that something was not quite right with Western "spirituality" was when Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code came out. It just seemed entirely too convenient that there was this secret, ancient "authentic" version of Christianity that just happened to correspond with everything that trendy 21st Century Americans wanted to believe was true.

Brown, of course, said with a wink that it was a work of fiction and some things had been dramatized. As it turns out, it wasn't just a dramatization of fact. The whole awful screed is built on wishful thinking and stilted hack prose to boot.

It's interesting to note that the premise that Catholicism is a perversion of some idealized, older form of Christianity is a trope you hear all the freaking time from Protestants. The most gloriously absurd example I've come across so far has got to be the work of Jack T. Chick which, among many other things, affirms that Communion is Pagan in origin. How he came to this bizarre conclusion, given that the ritual of Communion is explicitly outlined at several points in the New Testament, I do not know!

Disagree. It's a world affirming faith. It's a religion that affirms the goodness of the created world.

I'm out of my depth on this. I think of Christianity as a world-denying faith because of passages in the New Testament saying things like it's harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven, and passages referring to Satan as the ruler of the world. Obviously, the Socialist and Albigensians respectively took these ideas to the extremes.

I'm certainly eager for clarification on the matter. Like I said, way out of my depth on this one.

I don't suffer from work-worship but and definitely see the importance of leisure, but I wouldn't underestimate the socially corrosive powers of unemployment, the Brownshirts were filled with men who had no other gainful employment.

Protestant work-worship, if anything, tends to make the problem worse by disguising unemployment through the creation of fake jobs. The Brownshirts you mention would be an extreme example. Universities are filled top to bottom with (somewhat) less alarming ones.

GK Chesterton said...

@ Jaya Shiva Shambo,

India was in free fall before the British. Anyone that says anything else is often an Indian nationalist, which is ironic in and of itself. The British brought steam power, a stable financial system, a stable government, an end to petty wars with princelings, and world trade.

India's current export of IT engineers would have also been impossible without the British educational system.

Jaya Shiva Shambo! said...

" Anyone that says anything else is often an Indian nationalist"

You say that like its something bad. LOL!

I'm not Indian. I'm a "white" American Hindu, so no Indian Nationalist here. I suppose you could call me an American patriot. Definitely a liberty lover. Especially religious liberty.

I already mentioned the pre-British negative impact of Islamic and other foreign invasions. It was still however resource rich enough for the British to want a piece of the pie. Indeed, UK "industry" depended upon India. The UK was amongst the last globally in industry before it exploited South Asia.

"India's current export of IT engineers would have also been impossible without the British educational system."

You say that like its a good thing!




Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GK Chesterton said...

Oh the hacks...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pete said...

Actually, as Rodney Stark in his VICTORY OF REASON shows, it is actually the Catholic Work Ethic which predates the so-called Protestant Work Ethic by hundreds of years.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Social Pathologist said...

Anon@12:08

I've deleted your comment because it wasn't civil. Keep it civil or you're banned