March 24, 2011

Cluttered Book, Cluttered Mind?

Like Roman Gaul circa 58 B.C., TCATL is divided into three parts, but its total area is hardly as well distributed as was that provincial territory. The only thing “Roman” about its organization are its numerals.
The book’s contents are allocated over 22 chapters as follows:
Section I: Encountering the Austro-Libertarian Movement, 35 pages/two chapters
Section II: Austro-Libertarianism contra Ecclesiam, 214 pages/15 chapters
Section III: A Catholic Response, 69 pages/five chapters
In other words, the middle section bulges with more than twice as many chapters and pages as the other two combined.
Section I effectively consists of only one chapter, namely, the second, “The Illusory Free Market,” to which we will, of course, pay special attention. I say this because one-and-half pages out of the first chapter’s five, ostensibly dedicated to “meeting” Mr. Ferrara’s flesh-and-blood targets, do not in the least serve that purpose. Instead they articulate two “caveats” (sic) about what TCATL does not concern, material that for some reason he left out of the “Author’s Introduction” where it clearly belongs. Of course, that would have left three-and-a-half pages (out of 326) to summarize a century of the scholarly thought one is going to spend the rest of the book critiquing. (No, those three-and-a-half pages are not a judicious précis.)
Section II is a grab bag of topics, ranging from the sublime (“Man and God: Opposing Views”) to the ridiculous (“A Defense of Scrooge”), all in some way purporting to show how Austro-libertarian Catholics fail Mr. Ferrara’s test of Catholicity (or, as he sometimes adds, even human decency). With a little effort, however, he might have broken it into two sections, one more philosophically oriented, the other more “applied philosophy.” The latter would have served nicely as a transition to Section III, Mr. Ferrara’s brief for Distributism. The placement of a repetitive “summary” chapter (“The Market Can Do No Wrong”) fourth from that section's end signals organizational trouble.  It is a distracting waste of space that could have been conserved to beef up the skimpy first chapter. What we have instead is an aggregation of topics.  When we examine how he handled each of them, it will be clear that they are all related to each other only by the logic of his fundamentalist epistemology.
Section III is modestly subtitled “A Catholic Response” (as opposed to “The Catholic Response”), although arguably the whole book is one Catholic gentleman’s "response" to the phenomenon of Austro-libertarian Catholics.  “A Catholic Alternative” would have been accurate. Where it is not stumping for Distributism, this section repeats many charges made earlier. When we get to those repetitions, we will simply refer back to posts that addressed them sufficiently the first time.