This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Capitalism: or economic Liberalism

“The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can successfully eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action. Then, the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from “influences” of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.”

~ Pope Benedict XVI[1]

That Capitalism is the liberalization of economic life should be painfully obvious, even though the American conservatives who today espouse it have no idea of the fact. To illustrate the point to such historically ignorant individuals, then, we might refer to Milton Friedman, economic advisor to Ronald Reagan and internationally known proponent of laissez-faire economic policy. In his 1962 book titled Capitalism and Freedom, he wrote that “the intellectual movement that went under the name of Liberalism emphasized freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in the society.” This movement “supported laissez-faire at home as a means of reducing the role of the state in economic affairs and thereby enlarging the role of the individual.” Friedman thus considered himself a thoroughgoing Liberal, as much as this might dismay his contemporary disciples who think that ‘liberalism’ is merely a synonym for progressive politics. The reason for this dismay is simply that Friedman was consistent, and had an understanding of history and philosophy; our contemporary conservatives do not.

At this point I do not intend to examine the policies or problems associated with Capitalism. That will be addressed when we lay out Catholic Social Teachings as an adaptation of traditional doctrine to the modern context. Here and now, we only intended to show that Liberalism acted as the mother of Capitalism, since this relationship tends to be veiled, especially in the United States, due to our arbitrary use of political terminology.

Having shown this connection, we are able to understand the phrasing used in many Catholic encyclicals and documents which condemn Capitalism by calling it Liberalism. For example, when Pope Pius XI applauds “boldly breaking through the confines imposed by Liberalism,”[2] and John XXIII condemns “unrestricted competition in the Liberal sense,”[3] they are speaking with a unified voice of the evils of Capitalism,[4] but this is completely ignored by many contemporary readers who refuse to acknowledge that contemporary party politics do not retroactively determine the meaning of words in historical documents.

Oswald Spengler had seen the connection between the money Liberalism of our capitalists and the more progressive moral Liberalism of their enemies, saying that Liberalism consists in “freedom of the intellect for every kind of criticism, freedom of money for every kind of business.”[5]

[1] Caritas in Veritate, 34.

[2] Quadragesimo Anno, 25.

[3] Mater et Magistra, 23.

[4] See also: Sollicitudo rei Socialis, 20, 21, and 41.

[5] Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West: Perspectives on World History, p. 403-404.

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