He who places his hope on thee, O Virgin all-glorious, will prosper in all he does.

Inscription on Byzantine coin during reign of Romanus III

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Irrelevant Un-Maestro

There he goes again. Alan Greenspan sees little economic light as the recovery remains "unbalanced", with only high earners and big companies driving growth so far.

The reasons for Alan's pessimism are my reasons for optimism. Concentration of capital, such as those in the hands of high earners and big corporations, are what sets in motion a solid recovery. Small businesses can't borrow unless capital is available. The unemployed can't get jobs until capital is amassed and used to purchase productive capacity. Production must precede consumption.

This truth is the reason why the Gospel's admonition to aid the poor cannot constitute the basis for sound economic policy. Dispersion of capital--dissaving--is what wrecks economic recoveries. One aids the poor from one's surplus, not from one's seed corn.

The decision about how much to save and how much to consume--and how much to give to the poor--is a decision best made by each believer, not by the State.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

All Creatures Pray For Us

I learned it from the Alaskans.


Whiff Of Pew-Stink

I'm delighted to see that brave souls are taking the initiative in reminding everyone how to act in church. Here and here.

A More Mundane Criterion

Another interesting item from Och's blog concerns the report that the OCA's Met Jonah is talking to the Fort Worth ECUSA diocese, presumably about reception into Orthodoxy.

I'm a huge fan of the Anglicans. Their sensible outreach spirit has brought us such varied phenomena as the USA (Anglicans along with Protestants, Masons, and Deists) and Alcoholics Anonymous.

How shameful we Orthodox must feel at our own paltry outreach. Our excitable Greek and Slavic energies have been wasted in stupid quibblings. We can't even agree to pay our priests a living wage. We make a big show about Lenten repentance and what the Fathers think about whatnot, but kick the man who's commissioned to lead us to the Kingdom. We kick his family, too.

Met. Jonah's talks with the Anglicans are good news. Assuming there's some real conversion going on, the Met needs to get his numbers up to take on the Greeks about leadership in America. He needs also to show Moscow that he has the Right Stuff to lead a united Russian-legacy effort.

All of these issues are nice, but I'm especially joyful at the prospect of more formerly-Anglican converts filling Orthodox parish councils. The Anglicans are used to having priests, and they're used to paying them well. In fact, I would say that in my experience Anglican converts are the only converts that parishes should fight to get on their councils. Among the cradles on councils, my favorites are Syrians and Greeks, in that order. Those cradles are also worth fighting for.

We enter the Kingdom through our parishes. Let's take care of them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"You're An Historicist" AKA "Your Momma"

In philosophical circles, calling someone an historicist is like talking trash about someone's mother. It doesn't accomplish much, but it could rock a pretty lazy day.

Unless, of course, one's actually talking about a priori truth, which in this day and age is pretty rare.

Have you met an extreme apriorist lately? You have now, but I'll save the Austrian Methodenstreit topic for another time.

I visited Och's tea party after a six-month absence when friend Sophocles asked me to sound off on something. Unfortunately, Och's daily topic didn't permit my periodic anti-ecumenist diatribe, but it was almost as interesting:


I'm still trying to figure out what Och means by usury, because he describes all sorts of things as usurious, but I know it means something BAD.

To me, usury means:


The East and West diverged in their treatment of interest on loans.

We all know how things went in the West: (1) Interest was outlawed, thanks to Aristotle and his episcopal cheerleaders and (2) Cardinal Cajetan saved Westerners from Aristotle's error. Deo Gratias.

How did things go in the East? Byzantium and Russia didn't outlaw interest. Their cultures were commercial. The West's was agrarian. The Fathers--the Real Ones--concerned themselves with loans and interest being charged to the destitute. Plainly put, it's uncharitable for someone to charge interest to a distressed borrower. Unpaid interest compounds over time and magnifies the distress of the already-distressed borrower. It's simple decency not to charge interest, and it's meritorious to forgive the principal as well.

Let's add another dimension--the penalty for nonpayment of debt. Back in the Fathers' time, failing to pays debts could land one and one's family and heirs in prison or slavery. When the Fathers talk about interest and enslavement, they mean it. It's not metaphorical.

Charging compounding interest to a distressed borrower heightens the probability that the borrower won't die as a free man.

You can call it usury. I call it evil.

In our casually-clothed age, however, debt enslavement is metaphorical. The borrower's downside is truncated by bankruptcy. Unpleasant, but one remains free. One can even pick a preferred chapter of the Bankruptcy Code.

When the Fathers talk about usury, it's good for us to know what they mean. All ya'll gotta look at the words, but what do the words mean?.

Sometimes meaning can be gleaned by the cultural and historical context that shaped their concepts and language. Sometimes context is an excuse for historicism.

By the way, Mom's fine. Thanks for asking.

Never Underestimate The Power Of A Tired Banality To Attract The Banal

Pass the Pepto

Give to the IOCC, and skip the self-absorbed display of charity.

"We are the fallen world, and
you should listen to our song
rather than attend the Canon.
We need you more than St. Andrew, anyway.
Have a great day!"