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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Religion and economics

 “The Catholic Church, that imperishable handiwork of our All-Merciful God, has for her immediate and natural purpose the saving of souls and securing our happiness in heaven. Yet in regard to things temporal she is the source of benefits as manifold and great as if the chief end of her existence were to ensure the prospering of our earthly life.”

~ Pope Leo XIII[1]

It is common to hear complaints of religious figures such as the Pope making suggestions about economic theory, as today it is assumed that the two spheres have nothing to do with one another. This warrants a comment on the understanding of economic activity and its history, particularly with respect to “origins stories” which go to form modern assumptions about such things. According to the conventional wisdom, money originated in a completely naturalistic fashion—from the ground up, almost like man from ape, based on a purely biological and necessary logic of efficiency. This gives the impression that the transcendent realm of religion is at the opposite end of reality from the science of money. If we ignore Smith’s theses, however, which according to contemporary scholars[2] is a reasonable thing to do, we can explore other options that turn this paradigm on its head. For example, we can consider the view that, as readily acknowledged, money was originally in the power of religious authorities. It is well-known that the earliest economic transactions are temple artifacts.

At any rate, even if the economic secularists were correct in their history, the reality is that, as Pope Benedict XVI suggested, every economic decision has a moral consequence. Economics is not a science, and while economics are responsible for technical applications, their applications and their approach in general are circumscribed within a moral framework, which is to say they must be circumscribed by the principles of religious truth. Hence, the Catholic Church states with certainty:

 [T]here resides in Us the right and duty to pronounce with supreme authority upon social and economic matters …Even though economics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere, it is, nevertheless, an error to say that the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each other that the former depends in no way on the latter.[3]

[1] Immortale Dei, 1.

[2] David Graeber refutes the conventional wisdom very well in his Debt: the first 5000 years.

[3] Quadragesimo Anno, 41-42.

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