Somewhere Hilaire Belloc says that an economic system based on usury must always by its nature collapse.
That is what we are seeing on a worldwide scale now. The European and American governments are acting as if loan restructurings and currency manipulations will solve the problem, that “austerity measures” will save Greece and Italy and even the United States—but the spiral has begun and nothing can stop it. The system must by its nature break down because the system, by its nature, is opposed to nature. Usury is contrary to reality. It is a system made by men playing god and it is as much a violation of the Natural Law as is the fiction of “gay marriage”.
Indeed the two have much in common. State governments in the U.S. now feel that positive law is unrelated to natural law, that in fact natural law does not exist, that whatever we assert as being so must be so, for we create our own realities, either in our sexual natures or in our economies. If we ignore what marriage actually is, we can make it what we assert it to be. And if we ignore not merely the moral laws that undergird economics, but the mathematic laws as well, we can pull rabbits out of hats and wealth out of thin air.
But, in case you haven’t noticed, the air is getting very thin lately. And stuffed rabbits don’t reproduce the way the real ones do.
In Economics for Helen, Hilaire Belloc outlines in his admirably lucid manner the following principles of usury.
- Usury is both wrong morally and bad for society because it is the claim for an increase of wealth which is not really present at all. It is trying to get something where there is nothing out of which that something can be paid.
- This action must therefore progressively and increasingly soak up the wealth which men produce into the hands of those who lend money, until at last all the wealth is so soaked up and the process comes to an end.
- That is what has happened in the case of the modern world, largely through unproductive expenditure on war, which expenditure has been met by borrowing money and promising interest upon it although the money was not producing any further wealth.
- The modern world has therefore reached a limit in this process and the future of usurious investment is in doubt.
Belloc always keeps in mind the thing modern men ignore. Modern men pretend that money is in and of itself productive, but money is simply a commodity that is conveniently traded and that can be used to price effort and production. Money is not magic. A loan of money does not always produce more money, for the money lent may not always go into a productive purpose–and it is production (effort plus resources) that makes wealth.
Thus usury is not merely charging exorbitant interest on a loan. It is charging any interest at all on a non-productive loan, for interest is a claim on an increase of wealth. And claiming an increase of wealth when an increase of wealth does not exist is usury. Thus, a consumer credit card loan even at 2% is usurious, for it is a claim of interest where no interest exists.
But if only credit cards limited their usury to 2%! That would indeed be usury by the strict definition of the term, but how much less of a sin that would be! For, as Bishop Paul Peter Jesep points out in Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It, these days there is even a bank that issues a credit card that charges (legally) 79% interest! Such a rate of usury would enslave or ruin any borrower in a very brief period of time. Such a rate of usury has never been allowed by law in the history of the world–until now. Even a few years ago, if someone charged that rate of interest, he would be sent to prison and called a loan shark. Now he is sent to a country club and is called “businessman of the year”.
This book I mention (Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It ) is a rather interesting one, a call for Christian unity on this subject. Bishop Jesep is a bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (meaning, I think that he partakes in apostolic succession) and is saying the sort of thing that bishops in full union with Rome ought to be saying and saying loudly.
In this book, Bishop Jesep does not focus on the very nature of usury, nor does he spend much time on the historical prohibitions against usury in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions, but he does ring a clarion call for an ecumenical response to the great damage being done by banks, the slavery that credit card “interest” rates of 20 to 80 % are doing to people, and the abuses of collection agencies, almost all of which use heavy-handed tactics and almost none of which can be trusted. Bishop Jesep calls all Christians, including Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox to renounce both the charging of usurious rates of interest and the unjust practices of collection agencies that seek to intimidate and scare people into providing a hefty share of wealth that they simply do not have.
“What would Jesus do,” Bishop Jesep writes, “the Creator’s only child who chased out the money changers from the temple, in response to unjust gain evidenced by collection bureaus and credit card companies? What would Jesus say to those working in these industries that identify themselves as one of his followers? It’s not likely he’d say ‘collect and exploit more.’ Nor is it likely Jesus would remain silent.”
How many among us self-proclaimed Christians make our living off of the more and more imaginary and arbitrary world of finance? How many of us benefit from usury, a thing condemned by both the Law of Moses and the Catholic Church from the beginning–not to mention by Natural Law itself? How many of us partake in the shadowy fields that ally themselves with the banks and their morally reprehensible demand for non-existent wealth, especially from the poor?
When (not if, but when) the Western nations begin repudiating their debt or hyper inflating their currency, the burden will fall on the backs of the poor, as it always does. And how will we respond in the United States? We roll over and play dead, we Catholics, as we are doing now that “gay marriage” is becoming almost everywhere positive law? We have allowed banks to control Congress; we have allowed Hudge to marry Gudge; we have endured legalized abortion for almost forty years, but at least, in the case of the latter, we have protested. Ought we not to do the same when we face another sin against man, against God, and against nature?
Unless we begin to understand what wealth is, what economic freedom is, and how Wall Street has been taking both away from us with increasing rapidity for a generation now, we are all headed back to the slavery in Egypt the Lord once led us out of.