What Justice Means

I am a fan of Walter Bruggemann, and I recently read his little book, Journey to the Common Good. This is an amazing primer on the central themes of the Bible. Along the way in this book, Bruggemann defines what the Hebrew words for “justice” are, and the definition might be the best I’ve ever read.

So here is YHWH’s triad, which we first might state in Hebrew: hesed, mispat, sedeqah.

Steadfast love (hesed) is to stand in solidarity, to honor commitments, to be reliable toward all the partners.

Justice (mispat) in the Old Testament concerns distribution in order to make sure that all members of the community have access to resources and goods for the sake of a viable life of dignity. In covenantal tradition the particular subject of YHWH’s justice is the triad “widow, orphan, immigrant,” those without leverage or muscle to sustain their own legitimate place in society.

Righteousness (sedeqah) concerns active intervention in social affairs, taking an initiative to intervene effectively in order to rehabilitate society, to respond to social grievance, and to correct every humanity-diminishing activity (pp. 62-63).

So the Old Testament’s words for justice mean solidarity, redistribution, and activism.

 

Genesis 1-5 as Ancient Memory

I have recently discovered the work of Riane Eisler, and particularly her classic 1988 work The Chalice and the Blade. Eisler is a second-wave feminist who has specialized in cultural history. Her book is an overview of the apparently substantial archaeological evidence that human society during the Neolithic pre-historical period (that period that before written historical records, before the rise of the Egyptian empire) was radically peaceful, cooperative, and egalitarian.

It turns out, there is no evidence that Neolithic communities built fortifications or defenses around their towns, no evidence among what we can find of their metallurgy that they manufactured any weapons, and from what we can tell about their social lives, men and women lived in equalitarian peace, neither patriarchal or matriarchal.

Thus, Eisler distinguishes between two ultimate types of social structures, which she terms the “chalice” and the “blade.” Or, phrased differently, the cooperative and the dominator culture, each organized around the common cup or the power of the sword. It was not until the nomadic herdsmen swept down from the steppes to expand their grazing territories that weapons and defenses begin to be seen, and over a period of centuries the peaceful Neolithic communities were conquered by various nomadic warlords. The Minoan culture on the island of Crete was the last remaining peaceful, egalitarian society, finally conquered by the warring mainland Myceneans (Greeks) in 1420 BCE.

Her research is helpful for us in that it demonstrates that competition, violence, and domination are not inevitable for the human person or the human community.

As a Christian, I found her insights of prehistory and the emergence of patriarchy as a later “de-evolution” from a cooperative, peaceful community very interesting. I was thinking this week about how we might view the earliest portions of Genesis as the collective memory of the Hebrew people, living in and often part of the patriarchal model of human society, of a lost age of peaceful and unoppressive human community.

That is, Genesis was probably written or compiled during the Babylon exile, when Israel was in captivity and under the oppression of the dominator model of human community. While prior to this historical point, Israel had come into Canaan and settled there, eventually displacing the peaceful people that lived there and had desired a king like the dominator model (in 2 Samuel 8), by the time they began to collect the earliest stories of their people and culture, they were slaves and prisoners to this same system. Thus, the idea of a former age of peace and a tragic fall came into their yearning. In other words, because they were enslaved and suffering, they sought the hope that such a plight was not inevitable, but that there had once been an age without such oppression and suffering, and then a fall from such a human community.

To make this clearer, Genesis is a foundational mythic retelling of a cultural memory of a distant past. There are glimmers of a genuine lost historical age found under the mythical trappings of the story, much as there might well have been a real flood that gave rise to the flood account of Noah.

When we turn to Genesis 1-5, then, we see the remnants of their ancient memory of precisely this neolithic past, passed down in stories through the collective memory of the community, of a way of being human in community that had been lost (but might be recovered in some eschatological future). The story of Adam and Eve dwelling in harmony with each other, the creation, and God in the Garden of Eden is the expression of what the Hebrews called “shalom,” or peace, a comprehensive peace and harmony between all creation, where all relationships were properly ordered in equalitarian and healthy, nonviolent terms. (I am here assuming that Phyllis Trible and various eco-theologians are correct in seeing Genesis 1-2 as egalitarian and opposed to androarchy, mankind-rule and people-centrism.)

When the serpent turns up, it inserts disorder and disharmony into all of these relationships, humanity with itself, between the genders, between humanity and the animals and the creation. There is now “enmity” (Gen. 3:15) that interferes with shalom. This could well be, once again, the collective memory of an ancient neolithic past in which communities of shalom and cooperation and harmony were conquered by warlords, which would have plunged people into enmity with one another and with the world. Later, in Genesis 4, this enmity bursts into violent murder between agrarian Cain and herdsman Abel, the precise two kinds of communities that fought with each other in the later neolithic age. Cain, the violent one, then goes on to found the first city (and the implication of it, empire, domination, oppression).

In the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, the word “enmity” in Gen. 3:15 is echthran. This is important for the gospel, as Ephesians 2:14-18 makes clear:

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

In this passage, pseudo-Paul mentions “hostility” twice as something that Jesus killed. The Cross, then, was the ultimate act of violence of God’s part–the violence of enemy-love, to suffer rather than retaliate, and in that way execute hatred and violence forever. That word “hostility” is echthra, forging a close connection between the serpent-dominator who gets between healthy, harmonious relationships with its enmity [echthran], and the Christ-liberator, who finally killed enmity [echthra] itself in the human soul and in human community. By killing enmity, Jesus opens up new ways of being human and living together in community, restoring “peace,” shalom, that ancient human community based in cooperation, love, peace, and egalitarian life.

Marx was Right (Kind of)

John Mueller (Redeeming Economics, p. 4-5) notes that when it comes to Adam Smith’s “labor theory of value,” Karl Marx did not, as conservative Christians are told, misunderstand the theory at all.

Karl Marx did not misunderstand this theory, but rather understood it very well, when he claimed that it had turned every exchange from the approximate equality of Aristotle’s “justice in exchange” into pervasive injustice in exchange, with workers producing all the value while capitalists skimmed much of it for their own profit.

It should be noted here that Mueller is no Marxist, but is instead a Catholic economist whose book was published by the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

Economics and the Parable of the Talents

As I continue to mull over the response to my reading of the parable of the tenants, I wanted to draw some attention to interpretive opponents for a moment. That is, when comments (both here and over social media) started coming in on the subject, the most common response was something along the lines of “This parable has nothing to do with economics, but rather faithfulness!” The implication being that to read the parable economically, either positively or negatively, is an unsound hermeneutical approach to the passage.

I would like to note at least seven major theologians within the Reformed tradition who read the parable in just the way my critics say “I don’t know anybody who reads the parable about the good of economic labor.”

1. David Hall and Matthew Burton, in their abysmal book Calvin and Commerce, take just this very approach to reading the passage – that it reveals God’s approval of the capitalist model for wealth growth (pp. 69-71).

2. Wayne Grudem also notes the parable’s implications for business growth in his equally misguided Business to the Glory of God (p. 51 and surrounding).

3. Calvin himself seems to have understood the parable as having economic implications for the growth of wealth in his comments on the parable in his Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels.

4. John Schneider also takes this interpretive approach to the parable in his equally problematic The Good of Affluence (pp. 186-192).

5. Jay Richards, in one of the worst and most misinformed books on the subject I’ve ever read (Money, Greed and God, pp. 155-156), also takes this approach to the parable.

6. Joel McDurmon also notes the economic elements of the parable and takes this same approach to reading the passage in his God vs. Socialism (pp. 138-141).

7. Gary North also takes this same approach to reading the passage (Priorities and Dominion, pp. 538-539 and surrounding).

All of these men have approached the parable in the same way, noting its clear economic implications. I still (strongly) maintain that they have gotten their interpretation of the parable 100% backwards, but they all utilize the very interpretation I have been critiquing and demonstrate that those responders who protested that “nobody” reads the parable in that way are dead wrong. Almost everyone they read and cite most often have taken precisely this approach to the parable.

10 Problems with Gary North’s Economic Commentaries

The once-icon of the Christian Reconstruction movement, Gary North, has recently completed his economic commentaries on the Bible. The Reconstructionists, whose influence has now practically dwindled to nothing, were among the leaders of pushing Christian political engagement from the Right back into the foreground in the 70s and 80s. Their orientation was hard libertarian, and they have influenced countless others, to the point that libertarianism of some form or another holds a monopoly over conservative Christian homeschooling and much of classical Christian private schooling as well.

Since these were all circles I used to run in, I thought I would point out ten problems I have with the approach North takes in his books. Full disclosure, I’ve read almost all of Dr. North’s books, a project that began back when I was hard libertarian myself and which has continued today. I have read all of the volumes in this economic commentary on the Bible series of his (which is the first series in history to actually approach the Bible economically – for this achievement alone he certainly deserves congratulations).

Yet his approach is replete with difficulties. Let’s look at ten of them.

10. North’s commentaries depend upon a systemic error: That God blesses for obedience and curses for disobedience in history, what he calls “positive sanctions” and “negative sanctions.” He writes, “Covenant theology is also judicial. Itr insistes on broad historical predictability in terms of Bible-revealed covenantal laws to which are attached corporate sanctions,” (Sanctions and Dominion, p. 261). But as Hebrews 12:3-11 makes clear, this application is simplistic in the extreme. God works in such ways as blessings look (and feel) like curses, while what seem to be curses are actually blessings. Like the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and others, Hebrews has the effect of transforming everything into blessing, hardship and abundance both. This has the effect of destroying North’s central thesis: that historical sanctions (blessing for obeying, cursing for disobeying) are rigid and unbending rules of law that become predictable in terms of economic outcome (when Israel obeys they flourish, when they disobey, they suffer).

9. North translates the language of Scripture into the language of modern economics. The difficulty is that modern economics is modern, not ancient. While the basic principles were of course known by the time of Aristotle, modern economics would have been totally unknown to the ancient world or to Moses.

8. North depends upon Western categories. The West may have developed in conversation with the Bible, but there are deep and profound – nay, unbridgeable – gulfs between the two. Western culture is more Greek than Hebrew, particularly when it comes to law and justice. North seems to assume that because the West developed out of a conversation with the Bible, that therefore the categories of the much-later Western world can be read backward into the Bible.

7. North is obsessed with law. The Bible contains very little of what we would call a civil law-code. The Mosaic law, the first example that leaps to mind, is actually closer to fatherly wisdom than a strict law in the modern sense. Treating it as if it were the same as, say, the U.S. tax code, is a substantial error.

6. North’s portrayal of God and covenant is entirely juridical and law-oriented. That is, treating the entire Bible as a commentary on economic principles lends itself to transforming God from a loving father into the premier Austrian economist, more interested in rigid submission to the letter of the law and in maximizing efficiency than in mercy and love. As a result, everything becomes about economic utility. We are treated to these sorts of comments on salvation: “Salvation is not in fixed supply, to be allocated by a central distributor on the basis of competitive bidding,” (Sanctions and Dominion, 167). Tithing is “payment for sacred services rendered,” (168). The result is that God becomes the great economical pharisee in the sky, who forces men to swear self-maladictorial oaths in order to enter into a legal arrangement of the payment of blessings for services rendered.

5. North’s economic observations are often only marginally connected to the passages he deals with. Two examples. On Numbers 31:26-27, ob the spoils of war, North finds that “the modern principle of graduated taxation is anti-biblibal,” going on to argue that “those who receive more income, i.e., entrepreneurs who are at greater risk of losing their wealth, are today required to pay the State a higher percentage of their income than those who earn less income,” (274). All this, despite the fact that his views om taxes are suspect at best, and that taxation is nowhere in view in the passage.

4. North transforms the law of God from justice to efficiency. Notice how he deals with the passage regarding God’s merciful provision of cities of refuge to protect the accused of being killed by the kinsman redeemer: “The costs of perpetual warfare is too high. Such conflicts undermine peace. Too many resources must otherwise be expended to reduce violence. The death of the high priest ended all defensive costs for the suspect…The person so condemned probably would have had to change occupations. He would have had to learn to compete in a completely different environment. This no doubt was an incentive for those working in jobs that involved imposing risk on others to take care of their equipment,” (308). The reason God gave this law was because war “cost” too much. Reducing violence expends “resources.” Since the high priest was going to die anyway, at least his death has the net benefit of ending all “defensive costs” to the suspect. Do you see how pragmatism and efficiency become the overriding factors here? North follows this same procedure everywhere.

3. North everywhere assumes, but nowhere proves, that Austrian economics is Biblical. He writes his commentaries from the perspective of the Austrians for sure, but the result of this is simply seeing it in Scripture because one sees it everywhere. He writes much on ground rent and pricing margins and economic supply and demand in his commentaries, but has not shown that they are explicitly or implicitly present in the texts themselves. He has chapters that rail against central planning, graduated taxation, the moocher class, price controls, and so on, but this does little to further his cause – though it does much to persuade others that he is very good at getting to where he wants to go.

2. North’s scholarship is a good generation behind. A quick glance at North’s sources shows that he relies most heavily upon his own work, Ludwig von Mises, and a number of other economic and theological commentaries, most of them written prior to 1990. The more recent his commentaries, the less he cites other people, relying mostly upon his own commentaries and von Mises. He does not engage the critical scholarship or with other readings of his passages (though he is always happy to derisively dismiss anyone who disagrees with him). He ignores much of the economic and political work being done on the Bible in the last ten years. This creates both the impression that nobody is doing what he is doing, and that no one can refute him.

1. North’s commentaries aren’t, ultimately, about the text. When reading North’s economic commentaries, one is first struck by the almost-desperate way in which he always comes back to his economic perspective. I grant that his commentaries are probably the most detailed defense of reading the Bible with an Austrian lens – but this is reading the Bible in the light of one’s own opinion. It does not allow the Bible to speak for itself. As a result, what North ends up hearing (in the words of N. T. Wright) is merely the echo of his own voice. This approach is one of eisegesis, not exegesis.

Usury

I am appreciative of all the gracious and challenging interaction on my recent post on the parable of the Talents. While I remain convinced that something along the lines I have proposed is the correct reading, the argument needs bolstering in a couple of areas. We’re going to look at usury in this post.

Usury

In the law, usury (charging interest) was forbidden to the poor and needy in Israel (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37). After the forty years of the wilderness wandering, however, we begin to see  a shift from mere law-obedience into the application of the law into new situations, known better as wisdom. One of these maturations was with regard to usury. Deuteronomy 23:19 says “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.” Notice that this is a universal statement: no believer could charge interest in what he gives or lends to another brother. It is possible this expansion of the law comes as a result of Israel’s reflection on their lowly status with regard to the other nations (Deut. 7:7-8); to God, Israel herself was lowly and in need. Israel was still permitted to lend to the Gentiles (Deut. 23:30), but with regards of any within the covenant, or Gentiles in the land, they were forbidden to lend with interest. Life in the land was to be holy, as God was holy, and God does not lend with interest, but rather gives to his servants freely.

The prophets then take up this expanded application of the usury laws in Deut. 23 and apply it to the abuses during the Kingship period. The righteous man in Ezekiel 18:8 “does not lend at interest or take any profit,” but the wicked man “lends at interest, and takes profit.” Such is called an “abomination” and results in destruction (Ezek. 18:13). Nehemiah accuses the rulers in Israel of exacting usury from their neighbors and brothers (Neh. 5:7,10). Psalm 15:5 declares that the one permitted to dwell in God’s house is the one who does not lend with interest. Proverbs, often the refuge of pro-capitalist writers, even declares in chapter 28 that the rich man who lends with interest is gathering wealth which will be handed over to the man who gives to the poor.

The main intent of these laws appears to be the prevention of men from accumulating and hoarding wealth. God’s principle concern is with the amassing of wealth as a stumbling block to godly living and Israel’s reliance on God Himself for her provision. That is, the conflict over wealth in Israel’s history is one that has to do with faith. Israel could choose to put our trust in God, or in money, but not in both (Matt. 6:23-25).

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ (Deut. 8:11-17)

This is precisely what happened. Israel forgot that God gave her all the provision that she had, and as a result wanted a King like the other nations. They wanted a King like Pharaoh, a King like Babel, an imperium, a Pax Israelia. God gave them what they wanted, but it came with a stern warning: the King shall not “acquire for himself excessive silver and gold,” (Deut. 17:17). The King which Israel chose, unsurprisingly enough, was a young princeling, the son of Kish, a “man of wealth,” (1 Sam. 9:1). This King, the Kings after the way of the nations, would not rule selflessly and provide for the needs of the people, as Yahweh had done in the wilderness (Deut. 8:1-10). Instead, these kings would take from the people in order to reward his own servants:

He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves, (1 Sam. 8:14-17)

As any reading of Kings and Chronicles makes clear, this is precisely what happened. The Kings of Israel amassed great wealth and oppressed the people they were meant to protect and care for. The prophets arose and called Israel back to the law she had broken, and this featured, extensively, the documentation of her accumulation of wealth. The accumulation of wealth through peaceful business practice was condemned as the sin of Tyre: by “your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth,” (Ezek. 28:5). Yet the King of Tyre, the King of this great wealth, is identified with Satan: “You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God. … In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,” (Ezek. 28:16). Tyre’s business wisdom and trade is even denounced as “the unrighteousness of your trade,” (Ezek. 28:18).

There is, of course, much to be said about wealth in Scripture. But we have here identified what we might call the “central theme” of the Bible’s teaching on wealth. It is rare that a positive of wealth is mentioned without its caution or warning, and the negative far outweighs the positive mentions. Our temptation is to emphasize the exceptions and ignore the warnings.

Thus, when we come to Jesus, we must see that He is carrying on in this central theme regarding wealth. “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23). “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful,” (Matt. 13:22). “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on,” (Mark 12:43-44). “he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty,” (Luke 1:53). “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation,” (Luke 6:24). “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God,'” (Luke 12:20-21). “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you,” (Luke 14:12-14). “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt,” (Matt. 18:32-34).

Usury is forbidden because it is wealth acquired without effort, an increase without an output. It is essentially a fee taken from one who already has need of help. It is “easy money.” Such money, the Bible says, is extremely dangerous because it tempts us to believe we have provided for ourselves and made ourselves rich. It leads us directly into self-reliance, which leads to doubt and lack of faith. For if you can provide for yourself, what need is there to depend upon God?

The Failures of Capitalism

Once you get any kind of distance out of the conservative/libertarian enclave, one of the first things you notice about it is the patronizing tone. A good example of this is one of Doug Wilson’s recent posts, on how N. T. Wright answered a question. Wright was saying that the alliance between conservative theology and conservative politics is a unique trait of American Christianity.

Wilson admitted this was the case as an historical fact, but took issue with whether this meant that the American alliance is wrong. Obviously, as a good libertarian, Wilson thinks we ought to pony up to capitalism and embrace the political right. In so doing, he reveals this patronization (not to mention a good deal of arrogance) typical of all libertarians. Here are a few offerings.

“It is good that we are saved by grace, and not by works. If it were by works, our economic incompetence would leave a bunch of us hosed.”

Obviously, these guys are the other guys, those icky leftists.

“When Jesus taught us to feed the poor, instead of turning their place of habitation into a desolation, this necessarily excludes every form of Keynesianism.”

“We might conclude, for example, that Jesus doesn’t care what our economic policies are, so long as we love Him. Or we might decide that those who are conservative in their economics need to quit it, and become progressive, because that’s what Jesus wants. Or we might go the other way, and say that the progressives ought to become conservatives, also in the name of Jesus. The correct answer, boys and girls, is the last one.”

“All such meddling is economic stupidity, and God did not tell His people to fan out over the globe, doing stupid things to people.”

“If the world’s poor could be fed with leftist ignorance of economics, the world would have been satiated generations ago.”

Yes, anyone who is not a libertarian is ignorant of economics. Gosh, those darn leftists sure are stupid. Can’t they crack a book once in a while? Not only is this supremely unhealthy, not only does this merge affirmation of the gospel with the gospel of libertarian economics and conservative politics, but it betrays just the sort of parochial attitude which Wilson suspects his opponents view him as holding. Yes, well spotted. It is parochial to confuse one’s own opinion with an absolute claim on “the way the world works.” When Wilson says “leftists don’t understand economics,” what he really means to say is that “a number of other people don’t agree with the economic model I have chosen to self-identify with.”

It is also remarkable how much at odds such an understanding is with what seems to be what is going on in the world today. (And please notice that I did not say, “Wilson doesn’t understand economics at all.”) But to claim that the real world supports libertarian economics is a highly questionable assertion, one that must remain an assertion because he assumes the correctness of his position and therefore any problems in the world must be created by the other guy. Now, I have no love for Keynsianism personally, but as John Medaille (Toward a Truly Free Market) points out repeatedly, capitalism doesn’t work.

What, precisely, does a capitalist mean when he says that capitalism works? Simply this: that the capitalist system can provide a relatively stable and prosperous economic order without a lot of government interference in the market. That is to say, capitalism is basically self-regulating and needs no outside force, such as government , to balance supply and demand and ensure prosperity.

Yet, this has been repeatedly shown not to be the case.

the plain fact of the matter is that capitalism cannot function without government interference. Capitalism relies on an expanded state to balance aggregate supply and demand. Consider this fact: in the period from 1853 to 1953, the economy was in recession or depression fully 40 percent of the time. Since 1953 the economy has been in recession only 15 percent of the time.

That is to say, when Keynsianism was introduced into the economy in 1953, it was done in order to stabilize the inherently unstable capitalism that preceded it. And at this Keynsianism worked effectively, or at least effectively enough. The implications are numerous, including that so long as we want to have a capitalist system, we must be prepared to accept larger government, and Keynsian economics, which works to stabilize our economy. To put it another way: libertarians claim to want less regulation and unfettered capitalism given free reign, but the reality is that such a move actively destabilizes our market system and causes problems for everyone. To put it yet another way: capitalism itself depends for its existence upon large government, its practices actively grow and expand government, and it causes the problems with which our system is currently plagued. In short, it does the opposite of what its claimants say it will do.

Why do they keep saying it, then? Because the capitalist ideology depends upon theoretical operations of economic “laws of nature” just the same as laws of gravity or physics or mathematics. Wilson is at odds with his great Austrian instructors when he says that we can just look around and see the glories and effectiveness of capitalism around us. Ludwig von Mises, the founder of modern Austrianism, wrote

The economist does not base his theories upon historical research, but upon theoretical thinking like that of the logician or the mathematician. … he does not learn directly from history.” (von Mises, Ultimate Foundations of Economic Science, p. 73)

So much for falsifiability and concrete historical observation. Such abstractionism is blind to the world, so naturally we have difficulty convincing him that his theories do not work in practical application. The theory seems sound, they say, so the problems must come from interference. It couldn’t possibly be that capitalism is a failure and has to be subsidized by government spending and Keynsianism in order to simply continue functioning. Wilson says he has opposed crony capitalism from the start, which is all well fine and good, but the most pressing question does not seem to be one he has seriously asked himself.

Is it possible that all capitalism is crony capitalism? Is it possible that Medaille is correct when he writes, about the failure of capitalism, “I do not mean that there are certain imperfections in it, or that from time to time it experiences difficulties.” Rather, he means that the problems are systemic to the theory itself.