April 4, 2011

Demonize and Delete the Austrians (III)

Since TCATL seeks to discredit the Austrian School of Economics (ASE) in the minds of Catholics, it is unfortunate that Mr. Ferrara failed to mention how got that school got its name. In fact, it was bestowed with contempt in the 1870s by Menger’s German sparring partner, Gustav Schmoller, head of the German Historical School (GHS).
As we noted in the previous post, Menger picked a fight with Schmoller and his GHS over its approach to social science, and the resultant squabble was misnamed Die Methodenstreit (or “debate over method”). The propositions commonly referred to as modern Catholic Social Teaching (CST),* which Mr. Ferrara takes as oracular, presuppose the philosophical approach to economics of Pesch, his GHS teachers, and his students. It is ironic that what has come to be called modern Catholic Social Teaching has been largely influenced, not by the Catholics in that skirmish, but rather by the Protestant Schmollerites and their students, including Richard T. Ely.  By contrast, the ASE cultural seedbed was the neo-scholastic Catholic intellectual atmosphere of Vienna. 
(Ely, the intellectual godfather of American Progressivist and Institutionalist social thought, wrote the introduction for A Living Wage by John A. Ryan, S.J.“The Right Reverend New Dealer,” as Father Charles E. Coughlin affectionately dubbed himone of Mr. Ferrara’s favorite authors in this field.) 
Although Heinrich Pesch, S.J. had too much Catholic training to be taken in by pure Schmollerism, he nevertheless effectively took the latter’s side in the “debate” with Austrians over the very nature of economics. When our series arrives at the relevant section of TCATL, we will comment further on Father Pesch’s attempted marriage of Christian ethics to methodological collectivism and document his influence on the writing of Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno.
The convergence of nominally anti-socialist Catholic Social Teaching and nominally anti-Communist democratic socialism in their economic presuppositions was complete by about 1950. (Once again I have occasion to urge upon my visitors John C. Cort’s well-argued and gentlemanly Christian Socialism.)  Having ignored the roots of this convergence, Mr. Ferrara cannot shed light on such things as, say, Freedom and Economic Justice for All, the democratic socialist document issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1986 and reaffirmed by that body a decade later.  (In the light of Church officialdom’s renunciation of socialism, no less insistent than Mr. Ferrara’s, I would have liked to see just where our traditionalist Catholic firebrand demarcates his socio-economic position from that of his liberal episcopal nemeses.)
The body of doctrine that bears the name “Catholic Social Teaching”  depends on ideas that are not of faith and need to be demarcated from those that are.  Mr. Ferrara does not undertake this sorting and historical situating.  His approach is not historical, but legalistic: “Catholic Social Teaching” is virtually a legal code, with which a proposition is either consistent or inconsistent.
To Be Continued
* Future posts will cover CST in depth, but here is a foretaste of that coverage.  Take this arguably authoritative definition:
Modern Catholic social teaching is the body of social principles and moral teaching that is articulated in the papal, conciliar, and other official documents issued since the late nineteenth century and dealing with the economic, political, and social order. This teaching is rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as well as in traditional philosophical and theological teachings of the Church.
Catholic Social Teaching. The Office of Social Justice, St. Paul and Minneapolis. (Emphasis added. –A.F.)
The qualifier “modern” and the phrase “issued since the late nineteenth century” arbitrarily restrict the historical scope of this definition, leaving the reader to guess whether its object is wholly compatible with Catholic social teaching as it was articulated in magisterial documents of the previous eighteen centuries.  In future posts we will show that it is not and also that this discrepancy forces an epistemological problem upon Catholics like Mr. Ferrara.