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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Usury!

If Gentle Reader spends any on-line time around adherents of the Roman heresy (*) (and how can he not? they're everywhere!), he is bound, sooner or later, to encounter gasps and denunciations (**) of some great (supposed) sin called "usury" (as, see this recent thread at Malcolm the Cynic's blog).

My thesis here is that Romanism is all wet about "usury", and, moreover, that historically it was entirely hypocritical about the strictures it placed, in the guise of combating "usury", upon the societies which swore allegiance to the bishop of Rome.

When Roman heretics are trying to argue (to the limited extent that they do ever argue in support of their errors) against the charging of interest, and ultimately against your and my freedom to spend our time as we wish, they will call as witness the several instances in the Old Testament wherein God forbids the Israelites to make loans to their brother Israelites at "excessive interest". This tack is ironic -- and frequently hypocritical (***).

Oddly, the Romanist who points to Deuteronomy in condemnation of "usury" tends to ignore the rest of the verse; for, in almost every case in the OT in which God forbids "excessive interest", the reason for the condemnation is given with the condemnation -- that you do not reduce your brother to slavery.

Apparently, God is very concerned with the *freedom* of his people, not just collectively, but also individually. The RCC, not so much.

But, we capitalists have bankruptcy laws -- it is impossible for the legal charger-of-interest, that is, the one who is able to operate his business in the light of day, to reduce his "customers" to a state of slavery. It is only the illegal charger-of-interest -- who even has a market in which to operate in the first place precisely because of "usury" laws (****) -- who is able to turn his "customers" into slaves. This also relates to the Roman heresy's hypocrisy about "usury" that I mentioned up front.


The other main leg upon with the Romanist tries to argue against "usury" is by an argument from Saint Thomas Aquinas, the gist of which is that the charging of interest amounts to fraud since it involves the interest-collector selling to the interest-payer "something that doesn't exist".

Look, Thomas was undoubtedly a genius, but even he was just a man and was susceptible to a popular error, and official error, just as any other man is. And by the time of Thomas, bodies within the structure of the RCC were turning a tidy profit by exploiting the Romanist hypocrisy concerning "usury".

Consider (as, apparently, Thomas did not): by the Law of Moses, when an Israelite "sold" his land to another Israelite, what was he *really* selling him? He wasn't *actually* selling the land, for come the Year of Jubilee, the custody of the land must return to the original owner or to his heirs. What he was selling was the future harvests, or, as Thomas might put it, "something that doesn't exist".

So, in the end, his arguments (to the extent he even tries to argue) being shown ungrounded and futile, the Romanist is reduced to sputtering something the Mysterium (*****) forbidding "usury", and that's good enough for him (and should be good enough for you, too). In other words, he falls back to attempting an argument from authority against someone who rejects the assertion of authority in the first place (******).

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(*) What? It "offends" you that I apply to you -- and with far more justification -- the same language you apply to me? Surely, by now, you ought to understand that I don't give a rip whether anyone is "offended" by what I say.

(**) Frequently, these denunciations of "usury" are in the context of denigrating and denouncing what we call "capitalism" -- which is so say, these adherents of the Roman heresy are denouncing and denying others' God-given freedom to use their own labor, their own lives, as they see fit.

Hell! So great is the hatred of The One True Bureaucracy for "capitalism" -- which is too say, hatred for individual freedom, and the natural result of that freedom -- that one will sometimes see Rah! Rah! Catholics speculating that perhaps they can make common-cause with "the old left" -- you know, Lenin, Stalin, Mao ... Hitler -- in the battle against capitalism.


(***) When an Evangelical points to the Word of God as the basis of his reasoning, the adherents of Rome not infrequently accuse him of "proof-texting". So, depending on whether this particular Romanist does that, his move is either ironic or hypocritical.

(****) The only reason -- ever -- that there is a "black market" for this or that is because someone is using governmental force-and-violence to control or suppress whatever natural market for it exists. Observation of this inescapable fact is not the same as saying that no markets should ever be suppressed.

(*****) just in case it's not obvious, "Mysterium" is intentional

(******) Oddly enough, Romanists generally like to laugh about, and point fingers at, the stereotype of, say, a Southern Baptist, who "argues" against an 'atheist' by quoting Bible verses.


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Now, about my charge of historical hypocrisy by the RCC concerning "usury" --

It all goes back to the mortgage; for the origin of that particular financial device was as a means to allow bodies within the Romanist bureaucracy to charge excessive interest to laypersons while pretending to honor the Romanist strictures against "usury".

Over several centuries of invasion and conquest by barbarian pagans, followed by conversion to Christianity of the sons of those pagan conquerors, followed by generous donations of estates to various bodies within the Roman hierarchy by the sons and grandsons of those pagan conquerors -- and coupled with Rome's refusal to pay taxes (however taxes were accounted in any particular realm) to the secular rulers (*) -- eventually "the church" had become a major, if not *the* major, landowner throughout western Europe.

Once things had settled down a bit, the question arose of how to invest the income of these religiously-affiliated properties ... without openly charging interest (**). One solution was the 'mortgage'. And how that worked is that a religious institution would lend money to a noble, who would in exchange turn over all the income from one or more of his properties to that institution until he was able to repay the original loan by some other means. And you can be sure that most landowners (or their heirs) repaid those loans many times over before the 'mortgage' was paid off; all without "the church" technically charging interest on the loans.


(*) This refusal by the Roman hierarchy to pay the same taxes that secular landowners owed the king is an important contributing factor in the *next* wave of barbarian pagans steam-rolling over the existing state.

(**) Which goal, by the way, is what the "Moslem finance" of which one sometimes reads these days is about: collecting handsome rates of interest on loans of money while *pretending* to do no such thing.

It's a perennial human quest: we place unnecessary strictures upon ourselves -- and especially upon others -- in the Name of God, and then expend vast amounts of ingenuity looking for ways around those strictures.

5 comments:

malcolmthecynic said...

What? It "offends" you that I apply to you -- and with far more justification -- the same language you apply to me? Surely, by now, you ought to understand that I don't give a rip whether anyone is "offended" by what I say.

Heh. It's pretty difficult to offend me. Annoy me, yes. Offend me, no. I've conversed with you long enough to get a sense of how you do things.*

Consider (as, apparently, Thomas did not): by the Law of Moses, when an Israelite "sold" his land to another Israelite, what was he *really* selling him? He wasn't *actually* selling the land, for come the Year of Jubilee, the custody of the land must return to the original owner or to his heirs. What he was selling was the future harvests, or, as Thomas might put it, "something that doesn't exist".

But that's not how Thomas would put it, at least in my current understanding of the matter. He would say that he was renting out the actual land in the hope that eventually a harvest would come.

Usury is, in its most simple, fundamental sense, the charging of interest on loans. In that case you are charging somebody for literally nothing. That you gave out money has nothing to do with whether or not you should get extra money back. There is no service being performed and no object being given.

*[In any case, my problem in that thread wasn't so much criticism of usury, which I need to do much more research on to REALLY argue about effectively, but that I think Nate was being at least a little disingenuous, albeit unconsciously, and claiming things that weren't true or were ridiculous- i.e., saying that if you tell somebody they're misunderstanding Aquinas it's analogous to telling them they misunderstand a lunatic feminist. Not kosher, man.]

Ilíon said...

"Heh. It's pretty difficult to offend me."

This post wasn't directed at you, or anyone.

However, I've been around enough to know how touchy so many of them are -- and touchy about the very things they say and do.

Ilíon said...

And, in fact, if the argument-and-rant is directed at anyone in particular, that would Kristor (from The Orthosphere) and some of his more out-there Rah!Rah! friends.

Nate Winchester said...

but that I think Nate was being at least a little disingenuous, albeit unconsciously, and claiming things that weren't true or were ridiculous- i.e., saying that if you tell somebody they're misunderstanding Aquinas it's analogous to telling them they misunderstand a lunatic feminist. Not kosher, man.

Hey you're just not getting me! XP

Ok ok, let me think and see if I can come at this from another angle...

Nate Winchester said...

i.e., saying that if you tell somebody they're misunderstanding Aquinas it's analogous to telling them they misunderstand a lunatic feminist

Should probably go ahead and post here (forgot I had) the clarification:

To apply Malcolm's & Zippy's fallacy to another example, it would be the equivalent of:
Protestants believe in the Bible.
Catholics believe Protestants are heretics.
Therefore Catholics believe the Bible is heretical.

Now EVEN A COMMITTED ATHEIST should be able to spot the logical flaw in the argument even if they believe all Christians are idiots. Thus likewise your inability to grasp the feminist comparison.