Thomas More College Faculty Contribute to Book on Catholic Economics

by Thomas More College on January 28, 2008

Two members of Thomas More College’s faculty, Provost William Fahey and Professor of the Humanities Christopher Blum, joined other distinguished writers in contributing essays to a newly published volume that re-examines the modern economy in light of Catholic social teaching.

Beyond Capitalism & SocialismPublished by IHS Press (which previously brought out a life of Catholic statesman Englebert Dollfuss with an introduction by the College’s Writer-in-Residence John Zmirak), the book is entitled Beyond Capitalism & Socialism: A New Statement of an Old Ideal.

Echoing the 1930 agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand, by “Twelve Southerners,” Beyond Capitalism & Socialism lists as its authors “Twelve Catholics.” Other eminent contributors include Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society (and creator and host of the EWTN television series, “G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense”), founding editor of Triumph magazine Gary Potter, founder of the Distributist Society Aidan Mackey, and many other widely published writers on economics and social questions.

In his essay, “For the Life of This Pig or, An Essay on the Benevolence of the Butcher,” Dr. Fahey writes on the intimate, heart-wrenching act of butchering a pig that one has raised since its birth for the purpose of feeding one’s family.

He details the experience he and a group of agrarian minded Catholic friends had learning the art of hog slaughter from an aging farmer whose sons had abandoned the land. From this concrete reflection, Fahey rises to consider the role of tradition in passing along the crafts of a trade, and its connection to the transmission of Faith through the generations.

Other sections of the book offer eloquent pleas for the restoration of independent agrarian life—a case Fahey himself once made in his preface to the reprinted classic The Church and the Land, by Fr. Vincent McNabb, also published by IHS Press. Few contemporary Catholics now realize how profoundly Church social teaching is wrapped up with the ideal of independent farmers, craftsmen, or tradesman—an ideal which motivated many of the works of Chesterton, Belloc, and other socially minded Catholic writers.

In his own contribution to the volume, “Un Homme de Tradition: René de La Tour du Pin and the Principle of Association,” Dr. Christopher Blum excavates for modern readers the too-long forgotten work of a major Catholic social thinker.  René de La Tour du Pin is considered one of the fathers of Pope Leo XIII’s historic encyclical Rerum Novarum. Beginning with the revelation that it was the French Revolution which forbade workers to form trade unions or employers to form guilds, de La Tour du Pin noted that the totalizing principles of the Revolution required the destruction of all intermediate forms of political and civic association—from the Estate down to the family—the better to leave the individual naked and helpless before the State, a more malleable target for market forces. No surprise, then, that subsequent totalitarian regimes and consumerist ideologies purposely target the family, as well as the Church.

As he did at greater length in his edited volume Critics of the Enlightenment: Readings in the French Counter-Revolutionary Tradition (ISI Books), Blum follows de La Tour du Pin’s critique of modern economics and politics, and his recommendation of certain medieval principles of voluntary association and self-regulation as alternatives to the dead hand of socialism, or the “invisible” (and frequently unreliable) hand of the Market.

A must-read for Catholics interested in economic questions, this book offers answers that may surprise and will certainly intrigue believers all across the political spectrum.  Beyond Capitalism & Socialism: A New Statement of an Old Ideal may be purchased online at IHS Press or Amazon.com.

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