The Working-Class in Christendom (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913)

The following passages are excerpted from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913). The original article was titled “Labour and Labour Legislation“. Emphasis and headings are our own.

The Church Fathers and the Working-Class in Pagan Rome

Despite the teaching and influence of Christianity, the laws and institutions, the ruling classes and public opinion, the intellectual classes, and, indeed, the bulk of the people were still pagan. A few years later, Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire, but he did not thereby make the people Christian. The majority were still dominated by selfishness, dislike and contempt for labour, and by the desire to exploit their fellows, especially through usurious practices. The language employed by Ambrose, Augustine, Basil, Chrysostom, and Jerome against the rich of their time, is at once a proof that the powerful classes were not imbued with the Christian spirit, that the labouring classes were suffering great hardships, and that the Christian teachers were the truest friends of the poor and the toilers. The doctrine laid down by these Fathers, sometimes in very radical terms, that the earth was intended by God for all the children of men, and that the surplus goods of the rich belonged of right to the needy has been the most fruitful principle of human rights, and the most effective protection for labour that ever fell from the lips of men. It is, in fact, although not always so recognized, the historical and ethical basis of the now universally accepted conviction among Christian peoples that the labourer has a right to a living wage, and that the owner of property may not do all that he likes with his own. 

The Medieval Abolition of Slavery 

In the second and third centuries the slaves obtained certain legal rights, such as a partial recognition of their marriages and domestic relations, and redress in the courts for injuries suffered from the master. A considerable proportion of them were gradually transformed into serfs…

From the beginning of [Charlemagne’s] reign the lot of the slaves rapidly improved and their numbers rapidly decreased, so that by the middle of the tenth century they had almost been transformed into serfs throughout the Holy Roman Empire. One hundred years later, about seven per cent of the inhabitants of England were slaves, but the institution had practically disappeared in that country by the middle of the twelfth century. In the year 1170 the last remnant of it in Ireland was abolished by St. Lawrence O’Toole.

[…] Politically, [feudal lords] were not only the military defenders of their territory, but to a great extent legislators, administrators, and judges… Serfdom differed very much in its degrees at different times and in different places, but it always assumed that the serf, while not owned like a slave, belonged in a general sense to the lord, was obliged to expend a certain portion of his labour for the benefit of the latter, and was bound to the soil. Very often he was compelled to make other contributions to the lord, such as a fine on the occasion of his own or his son’s marriage. In the course of time the serf was relieved of these less regular burdens, his labour services were definitely fixed by custom, and his tenure of the land that he cultivated on his own account was made secure by custom, if not by law… The condition of the labouring class seems to have been on the whole better than at any previous time. The fact that the great majority of the workers were no longer slaves, and that they were enabled to till on their own account land of which their possession was fairly secure, represented a large measure of progress.

The Late Middle Ages in England

The condition of the labouring classes both in town and country during this time was much better than it had ever been before. In the first place, the worker enjoyed considerable security of position, either on the land that he tilled or in the craft that he pursued. According to the theories of the time, the members of every class performed a social function which gave them a social claim to a livelihood in conformity with their needs and customs. Hence the feudal lord and the monastery were charged with the care of all the inhabitants of their estates, while the guilds were required to find work or relief for their members. Although the workers enjoyed as a whole less individual freedom than they do today, their economic position was more secure, and their future less uncertain. There was no proletariat in the modern sense, that is, no considerable number of persons for whose welfare no person or agency was held socially responsible. As to the content of the livelihood obtained by the average labourer of that period, any attempt at a precise statement would be misleading. Nor is it possible to institute any general comparison that would be of value between the welfare of the labourer then and now. This much, however, may be asserted with confidence: the poorest one-tenth of the labouring population were probably better fed and better clothed, if not better housed, than is the poorest one-tenth today; for the grinding and hopeless poverty, just above the verge of actual starvation, so often prevalent in the present time, did not belong to medieval life (Gibbins, Industry in England, 177); the labouring class (meaning all persons who got their living as wage-earners or through self-employment, and not by employing others) received a larger share per capita of the wealth then created than our wage-earners obtain from the wealth produced in our time; and, finally, the guild system which governed town industry did for a time, and in large measure, succeed in reconciling the interests of consumers and producers (Ashley, English Economic History, II, 168).

The Papal Condemnation of Capitalism

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Magisterium restates the Church’s condemnation of capitalism: 

She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor… regulating [the economy] solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” (CCC 2425)

This teaching is discussed at length in Saint Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Laborem Exercens. The Pope warns against “a one-sidedly materialistic civilization”, stating that “in every social situation of this type, there is a confusion or even a reversal of the order laid down from the beginning by the words of the Book of Genesis: man is treated as an instrument of production” (§ 7, ⁋ 3). In reality, “work is ‘for man’ and not man ‘for work’” (§ 6, ⁋ 5).

He goes on to define what he means by the fundamental error of “capitalism”: 

Precisely this reversal of order, whatever the programme or name under which it occurs, should rightly be called “capitalism”—in the sense more fully explained below. Everybody knows that capitalism has a definite historical meaning as a system…  But in the light of the analysis of the fundamental reality of the whole economic process—first and foremost of the production structure that work is—it should be recognized that the error of early capitalism can be repeated wherever man is in a way treated on the same level as the whole complex of the material means of production, as an instrument and not in accordance with the true dignity of his work—that is to say, where he is not treated as subject and maker, and for this very reason as the true purpose of the whole process of production. (§ 7, ⁋ 3)

Later, he considers the history of the conflict “in which labour was separated from capital and set up in opposition to it” and states:

It was this practical error that struck a blow first and foremost against human labour, against the working man, and caused the ethically just social reaction [the labor movement] already spoken of above. The same error, which is now part of history, and which was connected with the period of primitive capitalism and liberalism, can nevertheless be repeated… if people’s thinking starts from the same theoretical or practical premises. (§ 13, ⁋ 5)

The Pope affirms that the Church’s teaching “differs from the programme of capitalism practised by liberalism and by the political systems inspired by it” because of how She understands the “right to ownership or property”: 

Christian tradition has never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone. (§ 14, ⁋ 2)

He concludes that “from this point of view the position of ‘rigid’ capitalism continues to remain unacceptable, namely the position that defends the exclusive right to private ownership of the means of production as an untouchable ‘dogma’ of economic life.” (§ 14, ⁋ 6)

“A New Set of Social Forms”: Alasdair MacIntyre on the “Benedict Option”

– Alasdair MacIntyre, “Common Goods, Frequent Evils”, keynote at
The Common Good as Common Project, March 26-28, 2017.

The Billionaires are Pro-Choice. You Shouldn’t Be.

While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of “the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit. (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 19)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows that capitalists are still using abortion as a tool for racist eugenics in the Third World. In the First World, capitalism’s relentless destruction of the family causes pregnancy to be treated as an illness that lowers female “productivity” in the labor market. Meanwhile the industries of sexual capitalism—from pornography to contraception—are worth tens of billions worldwide. Across all sectors, sexualized media churns out profits in marketing and advertising. No wonder 180 CEOs wrote an open letter stating that banning abortion is “bad for business” (WaPo, June 6, 2019). Sex sells, and it costs the lives of the unborn. 

In the words of capitalism.org: “there is no such thing as the freedom to live inside (or outside) of another human being as a parasite, i.e., against the will of that person… Under capitalism (a social system based on the principle of individual rights), abortion is an inalienable right.” In a system of pure individualism, a child in the womb is nothing more than a tenant who can be evicted by the mother, who is nothing more than a landlord. 

None of this should come as a surprise. The logic of consumerism and the market goes hand in hand with abortion: “You can have your personal preference, but you need to be pro-choice.” Capitalism exalts personal choice at all costs. But as usual in capitalism, lurking beneath this so-called “choice” is the cruelty of money-power and market logic. Just as the free market denies people their basic needs because they cannot afford them, the unborn are denied the right to life because they are deemed not valuable or useful enough to live.

The deceptive modern definition of freedom (“her body, her choice”) also defends abortion. This denies the traditional definition of freedom: freedom to do what is good. The “freedom” to use property rights to harm someone else—whether by aborting a baby in the womb or by denying workers a just wage—is not freedom, but slavery to sin. This follows the satanic confusion of those who “do what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

Finally, the logic of liberalism (“you can’t enforce morality on private individuals”) defends abortion. This rejects the true purpose of law: to lead people to virtue. Yet while it claims to be “neutral,” our capitalist economy and culture tells many pregnant mothers: “You must kill your child, if you want to be successful, wealthy, and happy.” Abortion is a sacrament of liberalism, a new sacrifice of children to idols of health, freedom, and prosperity—Moloch, Libertas, and Mammon. Any God-fearing person must reject these false arguments for what they are: capitalist idolatry. “Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows. /  I will not take part in their offerings of blood. /  Nor will I take their names upon my lips.” (Psalm 16:4)

The culture of death must be destroyed; the pro-life movement needs to look beyond conservatives to end abortion.

Here it must be noted that it is not enough to remove unjust laws. The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood… Governments and the various international agencies must above all strive to create economic, social, public health and cultural conditions which will enable married couples to make their choices about procreation in full freedom and with genuine responsibility. They must then make efforts to ensure “greater opportunities and a fairer distribution of wealth so that everyone can share equitably in the goods of creation. Solutions must be sought on the global level by establishing a true economy of communion and sharing of goods, in both the national and international order.” (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 90-91)

Sex Sells: Abortion, Capitalism, and the Sexual Revolution

In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond… In order to facilitate the spread of abortion, enormous sums of money have been invested and continue to be invested in the production of pharmaceutical products which make it possible to kill the fetus in the mother’s womb without recourse to medical assistance. (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 12-13)

Contraception and abortion are capitalist tools. They are useful for both maintaining the size of the labor market and for racist eugenics, but they have another purpose: the incredible profit of the Sexual Revolution.

Though sexual morality has long been in decline, the Sexual Revolution was a dramatic upheaval that swept away many remaining social norms. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion throughout the nation in 1973, but not before Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) legalized contraception for all Americans and Stanley v. Georgia (1969) established a “right” to the private possession of pornography.

How did such shocking degeneracy occur so quickly? The most powerful force was not the feminists and hippies who fought on the liberal side of the culture wars, it was multi-millionaire capitalists working with lawyers who followed the logic of liberalism.

To survive, capitalism must always create new commodities and markets. In the 1950s, a small band of capitalists led by Hugh Hefner tapped into the powerful desires of sexuality—previously contained by traditional family morals—and dragged them into the free market. In the words of Lyombe Eko, “Playboy was a classic sexual-capitalist venture. Hefner began the magazine in 1953 with a $600 loan and $8,000 from stocks that he sold to friends and family” (The Regulation of Sex-Themed Visual Imagery, Chapter 11). By taking entrepreneurial risks, capitalists amassed incredible wealth which they used to lobby politicians and judges, appealing to the liberal logic of the 1st Amendment and the Free Market.

In the words of the Financial Times, “in its effect, if not its intention, the 1960s were a gift to capitalism. Its emphasis on the individual reinforced the market, not the revolution, which is an innately collective act, requiring a groupthink and ascetic discipline that the 1960s blew away (mostly for the better). Individualism led to sexual freedom, artistic innovation and a questioning of authority, but also prepared the ground for the economic reforms of the subsequent decades.” (FT, April 13, 2018

Today, the industries of sexual capitalism—pornography distributed via magazines, video, internet, and cable, pay-per-view, strip clubs, fetish organizations, sex toys, contraception, abortion—are worth hundreds of billions worldwide. In the US, the porn industry alone was estimated to be worth $15 billion in 2018, larger than Netflix ($11.7 billion) or the NFL ($14 billion) (Source). Strip clubs in the US were worth $8 billion in 2019 (IBISWorld Report). Globally, the sex toy market is worth $29 billion (Source) and the contraceptive market $28.2 billion (Source). None of this factors in the profits produced by advertisements, marketing, and clickbait employing sexualized media.

Meanwhile, the U.S. “Family Planning” Industry (Planned Parenthood and the many independent clinics which provide contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion) is worth only $3 billion dollars (IBISWorld Report), yet it serves as the cornerstone of sexual capitalism. Abortion is necessary because condoms sometimes fail. Sex can only be completely separated from children if the “accidents” can be killed. And capitalism has always been happy to kill in the name of the market.

…contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree…. such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment.” (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 13)

For Capitalists, Pregnancy is a Disease, Abortion is the Cure

Abortion is a direct attack on the working class. 49% of children killed by abortion lived below the federal poverty line. The next 26% lived at less than double the poverty line (Source). This means that 75% of abortions are performed on the working-class families who struggle most. The death of these children is considered acceptable, even positive, because they were too poor to live anyway. Population control isn’t just for the Third World, it’s also for the working-class in America. It’s no surprise that 180 CEOs wrote an open letter stating that banning abortion is “bad for business” (WaPo, June 6, 2019). In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism.” (Source)

Why do so many in the billionaire class love abortion? Ironically, it means more desperate workers. Killing babies might mean less workers in the long-term, but destroying the family means more workers right now. Capitalists make decisions based on short-term profits, not the impact on future generations. After the success of the liberal feminist movement of the 1970s (which included Roe v. Wade in 1973), large numbers of women entered the labor market and the two-income family became normal. Now that women are regular members of the workforce, capitalism prefers to keep them working without inconvenient “interruptions”, such as maternity leave or child-rearing responsibilities. This is why, in the pro-abortion 1992 Casey decision, the Supreme Court stated that  “the capacity of women to act in society” was based largely on the availability of abortion. Frequently, women must take on part-time and poorly paid jobs so that they can balance motherhood with employment. This system encourages (and sometimes forces) women to put their younger children into daycare, which breaks down the family and adds yet another expense to working-class parents.

Pregnancy is treated as a disease or illness which must be cured so that women can get back into the for-profit labor force. As Erika Bachiochi explains “We’re not interested in ensuring women the capacity to act in society—to have a place in society—if they aren’t aping men. We can’t afford to do the much more difficult work of creating environments that welcome women who have children—which, of course, is the great majority of women. Instead, we’ll just continue to tell women what Roe told them a generation before. You choose: your baby or yourself, your baby or your future, your baby or your success; this is a man’s world, and you better become like a man—that is, not pregnant—if you want to succeed” (“How Abortion Hurts Women”). On average, American women want to have larger families (Source). Abortion conspires with debt and poverty to force women out of motherhood and into the job market. Giving birth to children and raising them well is incredibly hard work, but it doesn’t boost stock prices or increase the GDP, so the value of such in-home labor is $0.00 to the billionaire class.

It is a fact that in many societies women work in nearly every sector of life. But it is fitting that they should be able to fulfil their tasks in accordance with their own nature, without being discriminated against and without being excluded from jobs for which they are capable, but also without lack of respect for their family aspirations and for their specific role in contributing, together with men, to the good of society. The true advancement of women requires that labour should be structured in such a way that women do not have to pay for their advancement by abandoning what is specific to them and at the expense of the family, in which women as mothers have an irreplaceable role. (St. John Paul II, Laborem Exercens § 19)

From Margaret Sanger to Bill and Melinda Gates, Abortion is Racist Eugenics

The Pharaoh of old, haunted by the presence and increase of the children of Israel, submitted them to every kind of oppression and ordered that every male child born of the Hebrew women was to be killed (cf. Ex 1:7-22). Today not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries… Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy. (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 16)

Abortion is a tool for eugenics. Many know of the racist legacy of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who once gave a talk to the KKK and helped promote the “Negro Project.” In her own words, “[Birth control] means the release and cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks— those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.” (NYT, April 8, 1923). To this day, 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods (Map). Capitalists continue to say that a lack of “family planning” is the primary reason for poverty in communities of color, while capitalism itself has disproportionately enslaved, defrauded, and extorted these communities for centuries. 

Few know that this project is continued on an international scale by the enormous wealth of Bill Gates and other capitalists. In 1965, the Rockefeller Foundation was a significant donor to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (Source). Today, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent billions on population control in Africa and throughout the Third World. Obianuju Ekeocha, author of Target Africa, wrote in her 2012 open letter to Melinda Gates: “Amidst all our African afflictions and difficulties, amidst all the socioeconomic and political instabilities, our babies are always a firm symbol of hope, a promise of life, a reason to strive for the legacy of a bright future. So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon the plan and promise of Melinda Gates to implant the seeds of her ‘legacy’ in 69 of the poorest countries in the world (most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa). Her pledge is to collect pledges for almost $5 billion in order to ensure that the African woman is less fertile, less encumbered and, yes, she says, more ‘liberated.'” (Ekeocha’s Open Letter). 

Nearly a decade of this capitalist “liberation” has only resulted in consistently rising African debt to usurious international loans with no significant improvements to economic inequality. In fact, a 2017 United Nations report shows that the African countries with the lowest inequality are the ones with the highest fertility rates (“Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa”, Page 23). The slaughter of millions of unborn Africans has not produced a shred of prosperity. 

The use of abortion for eugenics can also be seen in Iceland and other European countries. There, Down Syndrome has been “cured” by aborting any babies who test positive for the disorder (WaPo, March 14, 2018). Those who cannot efficiently contribute to the capitalist economy are not considered true human beings. But the mass murder of children in the womb—the disabled, the foreigner, the racially oppressed—will not last forever, “for the avenger of bloodshed remembers, He does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (Psalm 9:13).

“The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen 4:10). It is not only the voice of the blood of Abel, the first innocent man to be murdered, which cries to God, the source and defender of life. The blood of every other human being who has been killed since Abel is also a voice raised to the Lord. (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 25)

What is Intentional Community?

An intentional community (IntComm) is a community which is planned around the common good from its beginning.

Such communities have always been essential to the Holy Church. The Apostolic Communes mentioned in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37 serve as the inspiration for the many Christian communities which followed. Christian IntComms include the many monastic movements of the Church—the Antonians, Basilians, Benedictines, Brigettines, Cistercians, Domincians, Trappists, etc—as well as various other communities such as the Basiliad, the Beguines and Beghards, the Jesuit reducciones, the Catholic Worker Movement, and the Focolare. Some radical protestant movements have also formed admirable communities, such as the Jesus Family in China. The anabaptist tradition has produced both the Amish and the Bruderhof, both of which have been successful in maintaining a strong Christian culture. 

It can be hard to imagine a radically different lifestyle. And it is true that the vast majority of IntComms fail. Why is this? 

First, living a life in contradiction to the economics and culture of modernity is not easy. In premodern society, the “creative destruction” of capitalism, in which market forces tear apart communities and families, did not exist. Culturally, people did not hold the modern ideal of individual freedom, but recognized the true freedom of virtue and the common good. While no utopia, the status quo of the medieval village was supportive of family values and traditional life. Today, however, the status quo of society is actively harmful to anybody who wants to live a good and holy life.

Second, many secular movements fail to recognize what makes an IntComm work. God must be at the center of any community which seeks the common good. The counsels of perfection—chastity, poverty, and obedience—serve an important role in binding IntComms together. Celibacy or lifelong marriage, the partial or complete sharing of goods, and rules which dictate decision-making and hierarchy can be observed in all long-lived IntComms. 

However difficult IntComm may seem, Catholics cannot afford to accept the depravity of the modern world, even if this means putting our “comfortable” lives at risk. Our Lord commands us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33). 

An IntComm is a place to raise families of saints. For those who despair about the future, it could easily become a castle in which to hide and wait for the end times. But for the integralist, it is a bivouac—a war camp—which sustains and strengthens those who do battle with the world. The economic support network, the traditions and moral customs, and the relationships centered around God create a small society which leads people to virtue. A successful IntComm can become a hub for building up parishes, evangelization, and the struggle for social justice. 

An intentional community is integralism on a small scale. It is not a retreat from political engagement, but a springboard for holy men and women as they work together in building a better world.

Society Before Capitalism: The Subsidiary State

The state (or polity) is a complete society, concerned with the whole of human life, which exists and rules for the purpose of justice and peace. It works in harmony with various “incomplete societies”, such as families, guilds, associations, villages, and cities, which all come together to form the state. But modern nation-states are not the same as traditional states.

We can find examples of this in medieval Christendom. There, kings were not, as is sometimes imagined, Absolute Monarchs whose every word was law. Rather, a medieval kingdom was a patchwork of many jurisdictions. Noble territories, chartered towns, and other districts had their own laws which could not be overturned. Most importantly, instead of a federal state which could overturn the laws of any courts lower than its own, there was room for different customs. This is why St. Thomas Aquinas taught that “custom has the force of law” (ST, I-II, Q97, A3, co.).

There are also examples of powerful empires which still maintained subsidiary structures. The Incas, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Umayyad Caliphate all provide different historical models. Subsidiarity, according to St. John Paul II, means that “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good” (Centesimus Annus § 48). This is not the conflict between “big government” authoritarianism and “small government” libertarianism. The authority of a powerful state and the liberty of local government can work together in perfect harmony, if the sacred principle of subsidiarity is upheld.

Many today would call these premodern states “primitive,” “weak,” or “disorganized,” for having a lack of clear borders or uniform structure. But the traditional idea of integral hierarchy is not about imposing a monotonous uniformity; it is about a vast synthetic harmony of different natures coming together in peace and love. Scripture provides a beautiful image of the unity which the powerful are called to share with the lowly: the wolf shall dwell with the lamb: and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: the calf and the lion, and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6). In a just hierarchy, we can recognize that the common good is good for all of us.

In fact, the lack of totalitarian state power allows the necessary agency for the flourishing of communities and traditions. Obviously, the governments of premodern society were not perfect. At times, they fell into tyranny or were upset by conflict. But it is the modern state, hand in hand with capitalism, which has solidified vast “structures of sin” like never before, plunging all of humanity into a dark age of isolation and atheism, with only the Self, the State, or the Market to worship.

 

Thomistic Economics: C—M—C versus M—C—M

The most basic form of exchange is barter. This is represented by the equation C—C, when one commodity is directly exchanged for another. Because everyone must have their goods on hand, or they must be willing to barter with promises and obligations, barter is generally limited to local communities.

Money can make trading easier. A commodity can be sold for money, which is then used to purchase another commodity. This is represented by C—M—C. A person can sell (C—M) and then buy (M—C) in a totally different place, as long as the money is accepted. This allows for much larger than local markets, which can exist on a national or even global scale.

Here the crucial difference between use-value and exchange-value, as described by Aristotle, becomes essential. All trading involves exchange-value in the act of trading, but the end goal is use-value. The purpose of bartering a shoe for a chair is to sit in the chair or wear the shoe. “Aristotle saw the form C–M–C as natural, and as being part of the art of managing a family or a city. Since the family or the city need certain external things to live, and to live well, there is a natural art of wealth getting, which is concerned with satisfying those needs” (“Use Values and Corn Laws…”, Edmund Waldstein, O’Cist.).

However, money introduces a unique danger. The Blessed Apostle Paul warned that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). C—M—C, for the rich, can easily be flipped around. If somebody goes to the market with money, instead of anything to sell, they can purchase a good and then sell it again for a profit. This is represented by M—C—M´. “Aristotle goes on to argue, there is a second kind of wealth-getting that is not natural, because it is not ordered to acquiring necessary instruments (use-values), but rather to getting as much money (i.e. as much exchange-value) as possible… This form of wealth-getting has no natural limit, since it is not ordered to getting certain needed goods, but just to increasing the quantity of money. Thus, there is no reason why M´ should not be again invested to yield M´´…” (Waldstein). Usury (M—M´) is the purest form of this unnatural profit-making.

Saint Thomas Aquinas agrees: “The former kind of exchange is commendable because it supplies a natural need: but the latter is justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity. Hence trading, considered in itself, has a certain debasement attaching thereto, in so far as, by its very nature, it does not imply a virtuous or necessary end [telos].” (Summa Theologiae II-II. Q77. A4. co.)

M—C—M is a dangerous source of fueling endless greed, which has always needed to be restrained in premodern society. In modernity, it has been fully unleashed for the first time in history, creating the system we know as capitalism.