This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

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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The three false commodities—land, labor, money

Modernity’s oversimplification mania always ends by ignoring vital distinctions. Sweeping generalizations are made, and things themselves are denatured so that they can be grouped into simple categories and more easily dealt with. These are the categories which contemporary economists use to speak of their subject. For example, we can mention the attempt to “commodify” various economic elements which are, properly speaking, not commodities at all. This is the case with land, labor, and money, all of which are examples of what the distributist economist John Médaille has termed the “fictitious commodities.”[1]

Commodities are “reproducible, elastic objects and services that are made mainly to be exchanged in the marketplace.”[2] Typically we are able to discern whether or not a thing qualifies as a commodity by observing its behavior on the traditional supply and demand chart. If we can adjust the price and quantity in such a way as to lead to the intersection of the supply and demand curves, we will identify the equilibrium point for this particular market and this will suggest to us that the good or service in question is, or can at least be treated with some accuracy, as a commodity. The three “fictitious commodities” do not respond in a normal way when placed on the supply and demand chart, suggesting that they are not commodities, and that a stubborn insistence on treating them as such will lead inevitably to incoherence in our theory and grave miscalculations in practice.

The failure of this test is a theoretical justification for refusing to consider certain things, such as human labor, as commodities. Yet we would be incorrect to assume that this is the sole reason for rejecting such categorizations. Catholic doctrine refuses to commodify human labor due to the dehumanizing or “objectifying” results of such a mentality, and would continue to reject this attitude on the basis of human dignity even if it were theoretically workable. Such objections will therefore be mentioned in their turn, but it is important for us to acknowledge that the neoclassical view fails in both respects: both morally and theoretically. We will now address each of the three fictitious commodities.

[1] John Médaille, Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More (Wilmington, 2011), p. 70.

[2] Ibid., p. 72.

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