June 30, 2011

The Eminently Real Free Market (XII): Sketchy Stories (1)

Mr. Ferrara writes as one with authority. “A library full of books has been written on this subject,” that is, the previously cited market-skewing by anti-Catholic capitalists, “but within the constraints of this book the following examples will have to suffice to sketch the immense picture of the history of ‘political capitalism’ and its effects upon both the illusory ‘free’ market and social order at large.” (14)
They will have to suffice because Mr. Ferrara has not mastered the books in that library. By training and profession he is a lawyer, not an historian. He delivers nothing more to his readers than an opinion, one that selective readings from secondary sources superficially support, and which some masters of the primary sources have contested. Never once pausing to address the question of his competency,1 Mr. Ferrara nevertheless proceeds to “document” his vendetta against Austro-libertarianism.
Part of an earlier post is germane to what we will be doing in the current series of posts:
What the book [TCATL] . . . parade[s] before the reader is one external criticism after another, each resting on the author’s superficial grasp of (a) the historical controversies to which those criticisms refer and (b) the literature that evaluates those controversies.2 Of course, had Mr. Ferrara tried to evaluate that literature, he would have had either to confine his scope to a narrower range of topics or write many volumes the size of TCATL. To achieve judiciousness in all of them in a mere 326 pages, however, the caliber of one’s mind would need to rival that of Jacques Barzun. Alas, Christopher Ferrara is no Jacques Barzun.
To which we immediately added:
And neither is the reviewer. Apart from having done graduate-level work in philosophy, this cradle Catholic, who intellectually converted to Austro-libertarianism in 1983 and enjoyed the friendship and guidance of Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) for the last dozen years of his life, claims no expertise in any of the fields for which our author presumed to play tour guide. As we shall see, however, expertise is not required in order to discern that Mr. Ferrara does not have any. Our series of posts aims at exposing the disservice he did his readers by way of inexcusable omissions and distortions. 
Before evaluating his support for his eighteen claims, spread out over twenty-five pages, and about whose bearing on the Catholic reception of Austro-libertarianism the reader may rightly wonder, we list them together without comment for his or her convenience.
1. The post-Catholic State’s massive seizure of Church property and its enclosure by the new “owners.” (14-17)
2. Early capitalist laws imposing the creation of an industrial economy. (17-21)
3. The widespread use of slave and convict labor in capitalist enterprises. (21-22)
4. The protection for creditors and slave-owners built in the United States Constitution. (22-23)
5. The rise of the limited liability, publicly held corporation. (23-27)
6. The government-subsidized transportation network. (27)
7. The use of State power to impose the legal and social uniformity required for “efficient” large-scale commerce. (27-28)
8. Corporate cost externalization: the “nanny state.” (28-29)
9. Fractional reserve banking. (29-30)
10. The Federal Reserve System. (30-32)
11. The international credit system: usury unchained by government. (32-33)
12. Government-Sponsored Monopoly. (33-34)
13. The use of patent and trademark laws to bar entry into the market by competitors. (34-35)
14. The use of the compulsory public school system to skew education away from the liberal arts and toward technical or scientific skills. (35)
15. The creation of a vast cartelized defense industry. (35-37)
16. Government subsidies that reward overproduction, even non-production, and price small local producers out of the market. (37-38)
17. The skewing of the “free” market toward goods and services related to the social outcomes of government-subsidized industries. (38)
18. Government protection and subsidy of the “free” market’s promotion of cultural and moral degeneracy. (38-39)
To Be Continued 
1 In an earlier post we wrote: “. . . in his ‘Acknowledgements,’ Mr. Ferrara didn’t discharge the customary authorial duty of taking full responsibility, and absolving all those he thanked, for ‘any remaining errors.’ I have always delighted in observing how many ways an author can creatively reword that ethical boilerplate. Mr. Ferrara may have deprived his readers of that sample of his creative literary powers, but his silence reveals much more: he will not acknowledge even the possibility of his own error. But what propagandist in history ever had? “An Overview of an Overview (II),” March 23, 2022.
2 Mr. Ferrara does have a working relationship, if not also a friendship, with a theologically like-minded professor of history whose Ph.D. was earned at Oxford University. I am relieved for the latter’s scholarly reputation that his name appears nowhere in TCATL—neither in the reference notes nor in any ad copy—and that any help he may have given to Mr. Ferrara during its writing was anonymous.