Amazons bearing power shovels

April 17, 2017 § 6 Comments

Individual hard copies of the Third Edition of the Usury FAQ are available on Amazon.   Feel free to order copies for your friends and enemies, and to post reviews.  This is a project of The Typesetter (a.k.a. commenter TomD), who did all the hard work: I just provided the content.  In addition to our thanks for his hard work we also owe him well-wishes and joyous prayers for his rumored upcoming nuptials.

The e-book downloads in my sidebar are still the Second Edition.  I’ll update all y’all when that changes – and about bulk orders, hardcover version, and possible conspiratorial distribution plans to various target groups – as things actually happen, as I find/figure things out myself, and as anything relevant takes place.

Countdown to launch

April 6, 2017 § 28 Comments

At the suggestion of reader MMPeregrine, in preparation for the print version/3rd Edition of the Usury FAQ, I added a couple of questions and answers:

57) This all sounds so complicated, and use of the terms “loan” and “interest” to mean so many different things is confusing. Is there a straightforward way to tell if a simple loan for interest is usury?

58) Is there something that the government can do about usury without creating a whole bunch of complicated regulations?

UPDATE:  The Typesetter has made the current revision available in PDF here.  If you are interested in proofreading the manuscript feel free to post any errors you find in the combox here, or send email to usurybook@gmail.com.

You need a credit score of at least 666

April 6, 2017 § 10 Comments

[16] And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand, or on their foreheads. [17] And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. [18] Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast. For it is the number of a man: and the number of him is six hundred sixty-six.

Debtor’s prison and usury

March 20, 2017 § 43 Comments

A good sovereign will decline to enforce usurious contracts, and will reserve the authority to – if prudentially necessary – punish those who attempt to craft usurious contracts.

It follows that in a good polity, the only way to acquire a magistrate-enforceable personal debt would be by committing a crime (including, possibly, criminal negligence).

I conclude that what makes debtor’s prison bad is acceptance of usury.  In the absence of usury, debtor’s prison is just prison for criminals.

On minding your own business and the unpersoning of contract counterparties

March 17, 2017 § 21 Comments

In Question 49 of the Usury FAQ I discuss whether a merchant may licitly charge an individual[1] penalties for late payment on unsecured merchant credit, distinguishing between two cases.

In one case the individual mutuum debtor has the resources to pay the merchant on time and refuses to do so. This is a form of theft or fraud, and thus is (under the natural law) a criminal act subject to the extrinsic titles and criminal penalties which arise from criminal acts.

In the other case the debtor has suffered misfortune and is unable to pay on time.  By extending unsecured credit the merchant took the risk of this occurring upon himself, and is not entitled to late payment penalties.

Notice that this means that the merchant who extends unsecured credit, and the enforcing sovereign, have to understand the individual holistically and charitably as a human being, in order to make this distinction.  It means – and I’m sorry to break this to you – that the dehumanizing incantation “it is just business” doesn’t actually turn contract counterparties into unpersons.

Treating others like the human beings they are in reality is a lot of work, and doesn’t always make for the most efficient business operations.  The other horn of the dilemma is that failure to extend unsecured credit will almost certainly limit a merchant’s available market.  With those moral constraints in place, it is almost as though extending unsecured personal credit should only be an act of charity, not a business decision.  It is almost as though we are to expect nothing in return when we lend money in exchange for a personal IOU.

But efficiency isn’t everything.


[1] As usual, the prohibition of usury applies to debt qua personal IOUs not to debt qua impairment of specified property.  The balance sheets of institutions are inventories of property and the various claims against that property, so “debt” which impairs the balance sheet of an institution is not the kind of “debt” implicated in usury.

The Usury FAQ as a tangible asset

March 16, 2017 § 23 Comments

Reader TomD is preparing to make a print version of the Usury FAQ available.  He is doing all of the work (he has a nice shiny shovel made of mithril), but in preparation for this ‘third edition’ I’ve added Question 56, “Isn’t criticism of usury just veiled anti-semitism”.

Regular readers may notice that the answer is a modified version of this blog post.

Lies, damn lies, and mass murder

March 13, 2017 § 12 Comments

Generally speaking there are a lot more ways to get something wrong than there are to get it right.  In the Church there is a special category of lie called heresy, which involves (again generally speaking) denying or distorting a doctrine of the Church specifically.  Truth is a unity, but not all truths are doctrines of the Church.  That water is H2O is true but is not a doctrine of the Church, for example.

The issue has been raised as to whether one of my claims is that liberalism is a heresy in this technical (rather than merely a colloquial) sense, as opposed to simply false or a lie.

My answer to that line of inquiry, for the record, is that I take no firm position on the question[*]. It is certainly arguable that liberalism as I describe it on this blog — keeping in mind the limitations of language, and the fact that liberalism is what it is in reality independent of those limitations – is condemned in various papal encyclicals, for example Immortale Dei.

But from my point of view it doesn’t much matter, and I don’t think the point is especially worth arguing.  Most folks wouldn’t balk at condemning a mass murdering political philosophy like Nazism without really caring much about whether it is or is not, in a technical sense, a heresy.  One would think that political doctrines which drive the mass murder of innocents (as just the most obvious and visible in a long list of atrocities) would run afoul of a Church doctrine here or there, I suppose, at least indirectly. But frankly the whole question seems like a bit of a red herring.

The same goes for liberalism and – depending on where you feel the lines should be drawn – its close modernist cousins.  Some folks feel compelled to draw the lines this way or that, probably driven by a delusion that the substance of the basic criticisms of liberalism can be deflected by some nominalist semantic dancing.

But my thought is that once the body count of innocents murdered reaches a certain point, quibbling over whether or not a particular political doctrine is or is not technically heresy is just Nazis dancing on the head of a pin.


[*] This contrasts with my position on usury, to which I have not really added any original thought.  My work on usury specifically (except where stated otherwise, and of course this doesn’t apply to e.g. more general discussions of currency, securities, finance, property, etc) is simply a reiteration, to the best of my ability, of the timeless moral prohibition against charging interest on personally guaranteed loans “for consumption” (in the pertinent sense) to individuals, with a few suggestions here and there as to why the moral prohibition obtains.

That is, when it comes to usury I do my best to simply restate Church doctrine; and dissent from Church doctrine is heresy.

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