July 23, 2018 § 28 Comments
To say that Bob has the freedom to do X is to say that Bob has the authority to do X.
To say that Bob has the authority to do X is to say that anyone who acts in a way contrary to Bob doing X may be punished or face consequences for that interference.
To say that anyone who acts in a way contrary to X may be punished or face consequences is to constrain people through authoritative discrimination: to classify people along some attribute or behavior and discriminate against them based on that attribute or behavior.
So freedom means constraining classes of people through authoritative discrimination.
July 20, 2018 § 39 Comments
July 20, 2018 § 4 Comments
The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts. – Veritatis Splendour
Abstractly speaking an authority can take either a “whitelist” approach to property exchanges (only approved transactions are endorsed and enforced) or a “blacklist” approach (transactions are presumptively endorsed and enforced, but exceptions apply).
As a practical matter though the latter is the only real possibility for actual finite human authorities. Any attempt at the former proposes to actualize a potential infinite, and thus in practice would become a perverse and sociopathic version of the latter.
So blacklists it is. There is good reason why categorical commandments take the form “thou shalt not.”
(Originally a comment here).
June 24, 2018 § 46 Comments
You can tell that you are still suffering from liberal commitments when you find yourself suggesting that modern liberals, left liberals, or whomever are distorting a good tradition of political freedom: that left-liberals have a deformed or inauthentic understanding of political freedom and equality before the law. If this is you, you are almost certainly a right-liberal.
June 15, 2018 § 25 Comments
It is worth emphasizing that personal guarantees on invested capital (usury) are indeed very bad business in entrepreneurship, where capital and labor/expertise come together to produce objectively valuable goods and services. Personal guarantees are a huge red flag that the contracts and capital structure are dysfunctional and should be re-worked before a deal is inked, or that perhaps the deal is no good at all on any terms. It is a naive and foolish business practice to give capital to a business partner under a regime of personal guarantees.
Usury is great business though when the objective is to sell things to consumers (e.g. college degrees in grievance studies fueled by five dollar lattes); things that they cannot afford without selling themselves into slavery, at prices massively inflated by the ready availability of usurious loans.
June 14, 2018 § 13 Comments
Can you licitly contract with a borrower, “I will give you this sack of flour for a sack of the same size plus one dollar, payable tomorrow?”
No you cannot, at least not simply, because this is usury: you are demanding a personal guarantee of more than one sack of flour tomorrow, as payment for exactly one sack of flour today.
What you could licitly do is buy equity in the borrower’s lawn mower for one sack of flour. You could then rent your share of his lawn mower back to him until he redeems it by giving you one sack of flour, or, barring that, the lawn mower.
Of course if a piano falls on the lawn mower you both now co-own, you lose what you invested (in addition to being out the profits). As co-owner of the lawn mower you share in any risks to that lawn mower.
You could buy an insurance bond from Joe against falling pianos, with some of your mower rent proceeds, secured by the product of Joe’s wheat field. But perhaps there would be a drought, etc.
All of which is to say that if the contract is a mutuum, any contractual profit is usury. But if the contract is not a mutuum and in no way contains a mutuum (hidden or otherwise), contractual profits are not usury.
June 13, 2018 § 32 Comments
I understand and appreciate the point – the lender merely gets the borrower’s pledge. The borrower gets the thing.
But it is unsatisfying that it is necessary to introduce idiosyncratic usages of very well-defined words. Nobody ever says that a lender “sells” the “loan”. Selling is something quite distinct from lending.
Like many words the English word “loan” is multivocal: it has several distinct meanings. I’ll point out two of them in this post.
In one sense of the term, I loan you my car to drive for a while since your car is in the shop. The term “loan” here means that I retain ownership of my car while you use it: you are obligated to return that actual car to me when you are finished using it. Because you are using my car, it is morally licit for me to make a profit – charge you rent – for your use of my car.
In a different sense of the term, I loan you some flour to bake into bread and eat. The term “loan” here means that you now own that actual flour, and have personally pledged to pay me for it later with different flour. (This is the kind of “loan” which is meant by the Latin term “mutuum“). As a mutuum lender I no longer own that actual flour, you do: I have agreed that you may dispose of that actual flour however you wish. Furthermore, you have not pledged any collateral: you have not sold me an interest in any specific itemized actual property that you do own: all you have given me is a pledge, not ownership of any thing. In virtue of the agreement itself I now own nothing, I simply have your promise that you will pay me for what you have purchased within some agreed time.
So it is morally illicit for me to make a profit on your use of that actual flour: if I attempt to do so I am attempting to charge you rent for the use of something which I do not own. Charging rent for the use of property I do not own is intrinsically unjust. I do not own the flour any longer once I have given it to you under a mutuum: if I did, then when you bake and eat the bread you would be stealing from me, as if you had sold the car that I lent to you in the other example.
If it is always intrinsically immoral to make a profit from this kind of lending, then why would anyone lend in this specific manner? Out of friendship or charity, of course, and in pursuit of the common good.
But it is never morally licit to lend under a mutuum out of financial self interest.