Monday, September 30, 2013

Redeeming Economics, Revisited


This past January we posted our reasons for not wanting to read Dr. John Mueller’s opus, Redeeming Economics.  Subsequently we were manipulated into reading it, and have made other comments on what we see as very, very serious problems with the book, but a peregrinus who came across our January posting evidently didn’t bother to see if we’d said anything else.  Anyway, the wanderer told us off in what he presumed was fine style for daring to express our opinion on our own blog:

“I came across this post a bit by accident, looking for more information about “neo-scholastic” economics as Mueller calls it. Unlike you, I have read Mueller’s book. I am astounded at you [sic] intellectual arrogance. You repeatedly attack Mueller based on what others have said, putting words in his mouth and accusing him of errors you have no evidence for.

“For the record, Mueller points out Aquinas developed a complete theory of economics consisting of production, exchange, distribution, and utility. Smith’s reduction economics to production and exchange signaled the beginning of Classical economics. The 1870’s saw the reintroduction of utility to try and fix Smith’s (by then) obviously flawed theory. But without a theory of distribution, how we choose the ends of our economic theory, [sic] Mueller argues our theory of economics is still incomplete. He offers numerous examples in the book how a “neo-scholastic” theory of economics can explain what classical and neo-classical economics cannot.

“His arguments are based on reason and facts, not hearsay. You should read the book. After doing so, if you still wanted to criticize him, at least you would be on solid ground.”

Let us set aside for the sake of argument the fact that all the brouhaha over Dr. Mueller’s book resulted from people demanding to know why I did not want to read his book.  Evidently, it is considered the height of arrogance to state why you don’t want to do something until you’ve done it.

Carried to its logical conclusion, we should not disparage suicide, murder, cannibalism, incest, or anything else until we’ve tried it.  We are not permitted to refuse to participate in anything based on “hearsay.”  Heaven — or Hell! — forbid that we should use reason to discern those things that might not be consistent with the principles discerned by reason.

In any event, note that the comment was in response to a posting nearly a year old.  In the interim, as we said, we did read Dr. John Mueller’s book, Redeeming Economics.  We found it worse than we ever could have imagined.

Why?  Simple.

On the second page of text Dr. Mueller redefines human nature.  This sounds trivial, but (believe us) it is the worst thing Dr. Mueller could have done, philosophically and logically speaking.  It’s “bad” with capital B*A*D, and then some.

This is bad enough, and can only be characterized as what Aquinas called “Intellectual self-destruction,” and Fulton Sheen called “Mental suicide.” Chesterton called it “the assassination of Thomism.” You can’t go around changing the substantial definition of things.

(In the original response, we then said, “Only God can do that — and Mueller is not God.”  More on this, below.)

Even that isn’t the worst part. Dr. Mueller redefines human nature in terms that make some people more, and others less human than others. This is what the Nazis did. Sorry — the analogy of being is that everyone is as fully human, and is human in the same way, as all other humans.

By violating the first principle of reason — that a thing cannot both “be” and “not be” at the same time and under the same conditions, and that what is true is as true, and is true in the same way as everything else that is true, Dr. Mueller invalidates everything he says after the first page of his book.

Dr. Mueller's redefinition of human nature is merely the most egregious crime against reason he commits. He also redefines private property, and puts words in Adam Smith’s mouth. He then confuses domestic, civil, and religious society in his analysis of “the Mother’s Problem.”  He makes many, many, many more mistakes as well, but they are immaterial or minor in light of his "meta-error" on which he builds his case.  His fundamental premise is false, and therefore his argument is utterly worthless.

We then closed by saying that what Mueller accomplishes in his book is not the redemption of economics, but its damnation.

Pondering on the question overnight, we realized we had made a partial error that should have been obvious — and which gave a little leverage to Dr. Mueller’s use of a false premise.  The commentator or any one of Dr. Mueller’s many defenders should instantly have leaped on this error — but they did not.

We said that only God can change the substantial nature of things.  True — with one exception: human nature.

Human nature, in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic belief, is a reflection of God’s Nature, self-realized in His Intellect — which is why the Intellect has primacy over the Will, and why truth (right and wrong, the natural law) can be known by the force of natural reason alone.  Faith helps, but is not (strictly speaking) necessary to know that God exists, or the natural law based on His Nature.

The question, however, is whether even God can change substantial human nature as Dr. Mueller did by changing its definition.  The answer?  Absolutely not.

The argument goes like this.  God is a perfect being.  Change implies movement toward or away from perfection.  Human nature being a “reflection” of God’s unchanging and unchangeable perfect Nature, a change in substantial human perfectible nature necessarily implies a change in God’s perfect Nature — an impossibility.

Can God do anything?  Yes — except be “not-God,” i.e., be imperfect, or embody change.  Not even God can contradict Himself or violate the principle of contradiction/identity in any degree.

Thus, Dr. Mueller’s reliance on a change in substantial human nature invalidates his entire argument.  It is relegated to the status of opinion, which may be true, not knowledge, which is necessarily true.

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