Enforced question begging

June 4, 2018 § 13 Comments

Despite its unwieldiness I prefer the phrase “decline to enforce usurious contracts” over the phrase “prohibit usury,” because the latter begs the question1 of authority in favor of usurers.

Begging the question of authority is pervasive in modernity, because modern people raised on liberalism try very hard not to believe in the reality and real legitimacy of authority.


[1] As usual I use the phrase “beg the question” in its classical sense, where it means assuming the very thing one sets out to demonstrate.  In this case the phrase “prohibit usury” assumes that by default those in authority should enforce usurious contract terms and frames declining to enforce them as “prohibition”.

§ 13 Responses to Enforced question begging

  • LarryDickson says:

    Your preferred phrasing is actually anti-authoritarian, because it removes the enforcement of usury from the options of people in authority. There is no need of a default either for or against usurers if authority simply does not include usury (just as it does not include the authority’s right to strip a father of the power to prevent the abortion of his child). In the USA, we have become resigned to insanely intrusive authority that can take away your children or your life savings at will. A recent example: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/06/04/feds-sued-for-grabbing-us-citizens-life-savings-after-airport-strip-search.html

  • Larry, one cannot authoritatively enforce evil. Specifically, a sovereign cannot authoritatively enforce a usurious contract, because no one can create a moral obligation to do evil.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Further, recognizing the lawful limits of authority is quite different from failing to recognize the existence and legitimacy of authority per se – being anti-authoritarian.

  • Auberon Quin says:

    Zippy,
    I hope I’m not being presumptuous, but I had a thought the other day about the relationship between usury and certain types of taxation and I wonder if you have any insight: https://onhishead.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/usury-and-taxation/

    If this isn’t the right forum, I understand. Thank you!

  • Zippy says:

    Auberon Quin:

    I have a few posts on the subject which may be pertinent:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/?s=property+taxes&submit=Search

  • Assistant Pig Keeper says:

    Just wanted to say, I’m super glad you’re still shoveling coal into this engine. I don’t see any indication that it change social norms (but with God all things are possible) but I am convinced that you are helping to save souls.

    It’s distasteful, but would you (re)consider one of those cheery little edutainment videos to go over the basics? I’m sure you know that a problem today is that very few people have the attention span to read the usury FAQ. I’ve had people express interest in learning more, send them the link, and then get back “wow this is a lot to read”…and then, silence. Horrible, but that’s Current Year. The same people would I’m sure watch and perhaps even think about a 4 minute video.

  • Advenedizo says:

    Persecute usury, maybe? Usury is not neutral to society, so ignoring usurious contract s is not neutral either.

  • Zippy says:

    Advenedizo:

    Usury is not neutral to society, so ignoring usurious contract s is not neutral either.

    “Ignoring” isn’t really possible when it comes to enforcement of contract terms. Disputants come to the sovereign for resolution of their disputes, and a subset of those disputes are contract disputes.

    Some contract terms are enforceable and some aren’t, and choosing which terms are enforceable is not strictly “passive”. See for example this post.

    A passive/active distinction in the exercise of authority is typically used to beg the question in favor of the exercise of authority the speaker prefers: to claim “live and let live” passivity in the face of “violation of rights” by an aggressor, as a kind of formal moral high ground under liberalism.

    In the OP I am suggesting that we become aware of this question-begging and flip the script, if you will, in the service of the truth.

  • Zippy says:

    Assistant Pig Keeper:

    Hopefully by now enough folks have been re-introduced to the timeless understanding of usury that some will feel free to pass it on in formats suitable to their own temperaments. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever do video shorts or what have you, but it certainly won’t happen in the short term. I’d be happy to link to the work of others though.

    The blogger at Infinite Semiosis (see my sidebar) has been doing a series of posts critiquing Noonan on usury, and I’ll probably link to his posts once he finished his way through it. In general I encourage folks who have “their ought to be …” moments to go ahead and pursue it.

  • Auberon Quin says:

    Thank you!

  • A problem with “decline to enforce” is that, in English-derived legal systems, the law can bar a remedy without making any claim to extinguish the underlying right (debt statute of limitations are a good example of this). So if a law was passed that the state would simply “decline to enforce” usurious contracts, then people could still be sent usurious bills and get bad credit if they didn’t pay them. Moreover there would still be back doors for usurious agreements to be recognized in exceptions and the like.

    A better phrase in my opinion would be “hold void”. Or one could simply extend existing usury laws.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Or ‘outlaw’, perhaps.

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