Love & Economics

Love always gets good press. Everyone loves love. Some say it’s all you need. In fact, love is so great that it’s self-defining. ‘Love is love’ according to the ad campaign that our elites are currently waging upon us. Incidentally, this is a brilliant way to maintain two blasphemies at once: first, that love is a magical label which a man can apply to any and every desire in his heart he wishes to justify; and second, that our loves are on par with (or can even usurp) the place of the one true God in our lives. The biblical construction, of course, is that God is love.

How should we feel about this sort of move in our culture? How should we feel about ad campaigns teaching blasphemies? How should we feel about corporations providing cover for perversity? We should hate it. We should even pray to hate it more than we currently do. Indeed, hating well is part of what it means to fear God: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate” (Prov. 8:13). Doug Wilson meditated on this verse a few years ago at the beginning of the year and resolved to become a better hater:

The fear of the Lord is to hate what is evil. We should be able to immediately see that there is no virtue or vice to be found in a transitive verb. By themselves as verbs, love is not good and hatred is not bad. Everything rides on the direct object. If you love your mom, that is great, but if you love child porn — same verb and everything — you are being wicked. In order to honor God, the right verb has to be lined up with the right direct object. Genuine love lines up with certain things, and so does true-hearted hate.

In the passage quoted, the direct object for hate must be evil, pride, arrogance, an evil way, and perverted speech. If you look around at the landscape that lies before us in this freshly minted 2014, there are many objects that rightly qualify as direct objects of our hatred — if we are to be disciples of Jesus in 2014. We live in what military men call a target-rich environment.

His post continues with seven ways we can better follow Jesus by hating as he hates. Go read it and come back.

This idea of nurturing the right hates is grounded in the Bible, so it would be wrong to credit the idea to a man. But I suppose I first started thinking in these grooves when I read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton in high school. In a section explaining his “position about all that was called optimism, pessimism, and improvement,” he outlined a paradoxical approach to life:

It will be said that a rational person accepts the world as mixed of good and evil with a decent satisfaction and a decent endurance. But this is exactly the attitude which I maintain to be defective…. I know this feeling fills our epoch, and I think it freezes our epoch. For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.

Hearty hate and hearty love. Over a decade after first reading that book, I think those words are still true and I’m grateful to Chesterton for writing them. But I bring up these concepts and my appreciation for Chesterton for another reason. Having not read much from Chesterton other than this book and The Everlasting Man, I wasn’t aware until a couple years ago that he was a major proponent of an economic system called distributism. Some Christian writers I respect have recently mentioned the system positively and a friend from facebook praised a book on the subject to the skies: “hands-down the best book on political economy for a general readership that I’ve read…more social than socialism and more liberty-minded than libertarianism.”

Based on the testimony of Chesterton and these other friends, I bought and read John C. Médaille’s book, Toward a Truly Free Market. Over the weeks to come, I intend to publish a blog series reviewing this book to explain why I found the book’s arguments so unconvincing. As I’m not an economist, I’m hardly qualified to comment on the book as an authority in myself. However, I believe I can explain why Médaille’s book failed in my eyes in comparison to typical explanations of the relevant economic history and theory one would find from an economist of the Austrian School.

Despite my assessment of the book, I’m happy to confess from the outset that I realize Médaille is a true ally on many of the most important contested fronts of our social life today. Not only do I enjoy Chesterton’s work and respect my friends who think about political economy as Médaille does, but I also regularly read nearly all of the publications represented in the blurbs of Toward a Truly Free Market. So this is not a take-down series against an enemy. In fact, I believe many of the things Médaille proposes would be improvements upon the current system.

1672_Gérard_de_Lairesse_-_Allegory_of_the_Freedom_of_Trade

The Dutch Maiden, liberty pole in hand, in Gérard de Lairesse’s Allegory of the Freedom of Trade, 1672

With these caveats out of the way, I will start looking at Médaille’s first chapter in the next post. For now, I’ll end with a note on his title. Just as love and hate must be understood and evaluated based on their direct objects, I take Médaille to be reminding us with his title that freedom—specifically the free market—must be understood and evaluated based on its context. Everything that gets labelled a ‘free market’ in our day is not in accord with true freedom. On this, we agree. But we’ll soon separate when Médaille begins to explain what his vision of a truly free market entails. For my own part, I believe with Mises that a truly free market is based on service and meeting one another’s needs. To bring it back to where we started, it’s based on love. And, after all, love is all you need.

3 thoughts on “Love & Economics

  1. Pingback: homo whaticus? | The Honeysword

  2. Pingback: Driven and Tossed | The Honeysword

  3. Pingback: What Médaille Calls Capitalism | The Honeysword

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