At InsideCatholic, Jeffrey Tucker, director of research at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, argues that Catholics don’t understand economics :

For years I’ve puzzled over the question of why Catholics have such trouble coming to terms with economics. This problem applies only to modern Catholics, for it was Catholics in 15th- and 16th-century Spain who systematized the discipline to begin with. That was long ago. Today, most of what is written about economics in Catholic circles is painful to read. The failing extends left and right, as likely to appear in “progressive” or “traditionalist” publications. In book publishing, the problem is so pervasive that it is difficult to review the newest batch.

It’s not just that the writers, as thoughtful as they might otherwise be on all matters of faith and morals, do not know anything about economic theory. The problem is even more foundational: The widespread tendency is to deny the validity of the science itself. It is treated as some kind of pseudo-science invented to thwart the achievement of social justice or the realization of the perfectly moral Catholic utopia. They therefore dismiss the entire discipline as forgettable and maybe even evil. It’s almost as if the entire subject is outside their field of intellectual vision.

I have what I think is a new theory about why this situation persists. People who live and work primarily within the Catholic milieu are dealing mainly with goods of an infinite nature. These are goods like salvation, the intercession of saints, prayers of an infinitely replicable nature, texts, images, and songs that constitute non-scarce goods, the nature of which requires no rationing, allocation, and choices regarding their distribution.

If one exists, lives, and thinks primarily in the realm of the non-scarce good, the problems associated with scarcity — the realm that concerns economics — will always be elusive.


Perhaps there is some particular nuance I’m missing that makes the claim specific to Catholics, but I don’t see why it would not apply equally to all Christians. I also missed the part where Mr. Tucker provides evidence—any evidence at all—for his theory. The assertion that believers are unable to understand that goods in the material realm (e.g., loaves, fishes) are not as abundant as goods in the spiritual realm (e.g., salvation, prayer) strikes me as peculiar.

I don’t like like claiming that an argument is a straw man . Usually it can be shown that someone, somewhere actually believes the proposition that is being claimed. But I believe this is a rare example of a true straw man. Has anyone, anywhere, ever held the mistaken belief that Tucker claims is common among Christians? Is it really true that modern believers are unaware that material goods are scarce?

It may indeed be the case that Catholics do not understand economics. But I believe all Mr. Tucker has established is that he does not understand Catholics.

(Via: Acton Institute PowerBlog )

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