Caligula’s Council Episode 6: A Christmas Digression

Merry belated Christmas from Caligula’s Council!

In which we are joined by special guest AntiDem. Here we discuss usury, California’s disgraceful public transportation system, My Little Pony, oh yeah and Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol.



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3 Responses to Caligula’s Council Episode 6: A Christmas Digression

  1. Pingback: Caligula’s Council Episode 6: A Christmas Digression | Reaction Times

  2. Dismal Farmer says:

    I am a fellow traveler, but the conversation you had about usury was terrible. We would all benefit if everyone would know what they are talking about before they talk about it. On the subject of usury, clearly none of you has a clue what you are talking about. You even reference Zippy Catholic’s very detailed and laudably explained FAQ on the subject, but you ought perhaps to have read it and understood the basics. All that you have done is to propagate modern misunderstandings and lies about what the problem of usury is. This was irresponsible.

    Obviously, consider this a fraternal correction.

    1. Usury is lending money for profitable interest.
    2. Money is, this is important to understand, emphatically not a productive asset. It is a symbolic medium of exchange which can purchase productive assets. Or, say, heroin.
    3. It is extremely easy to lend for profitable interest without committing the sin of usury. All one has to do is lend a productive asset.
    3b. Thus for example Jones can lend Smith a computer, which Smith picks out and purchases on behalf of Jones using money provided by Jones, and on which Jones in return receives profitable interest from Smith – profits provided by Smith’s use of the computer. Yes, money exchanges hands, but the loan is not of money, it is of the computer. If Smith ceases to make the required interest payments, Jones receives the computer. And, this is important, Smith walks away sans computer but owing Jones nothing more.
    4. Interest-bearing loans are always secured. Otherwise nobody would pay the interest.
    5. Usury is evil because, by lending money and not a productive asset, the only thing available to act as security is the person of the borrower. If the borrower fails to pay, the lender has recourse to the borrower’s person: namely, anything produced by that person may be claimed by the lender.
    6. If this sounds exactly like slavery, you get a sticker, well done. Yet even advocates of slavery do not pretend to argue that it is just to trick a free man into becoming a slave.
    7. The only thing that would need to change in the modern financial system were usury to be banned would be the cessation of full recourse mutuum loans. You could still have something looking like a credit card: you just can’t use it to buy a bottle of gin to drink. (Arguably you could buy a bottle of gin on credit as an investment, and then resell the bottle, for cash, at a profit sufficient to pay off the loan plus interest.)
    8. Borrowers take out mutuum loans to buy nonproductive assets. These consist of two categories.
    Category A are things that the borrower doesn’t need and are counter-productive. There may not be anything wrong with having a large television on which to watch the latest Hollywood propaganda, but it is clearly immoral to lend someone money he does not have so that he can buy a television, and then demand that he pay you the interest he’s not earning because he isn’t even working enough to afford the television, let alone the cost of the television plus interest. It is a clear moral evil to lend money for interest in these cases. The lender in such cases is no different from a drug dealer who deliberately hooks his clients by offering “free samples” until they are addicted.
    Category B are things the borrower needs. It is clearly immoral to loan someone money at interest to buy food they need to survive. The moral thing to do in that case is give them food (or money to buy food) and tell them they are welcome to pay you back whenever they can when they are not starving. Note that you may still lend money in either of these cases. If you think it would be nice for someone to be able to have a beer you might lend him a few bucks to enjoy a beer. Or if you see that someone is short on rent you might lend them some money to pay it. But in neither case would it be moral to demand that they pay you interest. In such cases you are lending because you feel it is the right thing to do, and not as a business venture.

  3. Dismal Farmer says:

    Regarding Mark 10:23-25.
    Reading the whole passage serves to illustrate Jesus’ meaning. As an aside, heretical Christian traditions which pick and choose single lines of scripture on which to pretend exegetical knowledge always have this problem of a falsely limited understanding, which is why full-bodied Christianity is only possible as a member in good standing of the catholic Church founded by Christ for the very purpose of avoiding such error.

    In Mk 10:24 Christ says “…how hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God” He makes it quite clear that it is not having a lot of money (being “rich”) that is the problem. The rich man’s problem is that he is ‘plousios’, wealthy, with material things. He is satisfied by his wealth. The one who is ‘ptochos’, poor in spirit, is blessed because whether he has great material wealth or not, he understands it is worthless without God.

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