Shotgun Defends Usury?!

usury

The alternative right in general, and Kinists specifically, are hostile to what they call “usury”. I could list dozens of anecdotes, but Andy Clarke’s article “Usury, the Enemy’s Weapon of Choice” is typical. The same objections pop up in Faith and Heritage’s “Traditionalist Critique of Capitalism” by my friend David Carlton. Additionally, an author named S.C. Mooney gained notoriety for a few books aimed at monetary theory and a refutation of “usury.” I have his books but remain unconvinced.

By “usury” they mean the charging of any interest whatsoever on a loan. I acknowledge there are times when charging interest is immoral and dishonorable – when lending to a sick relative, for example. Day to day business loans, though? They don’t seem inherently immoral to me, but those are exactly the sorts of loans the anti-usury crowd objects to.

In defense, I’m not going to outline the economic benefits that come from the interest-industry; those sorts of pragmatic considerations are usually non-issues in the debate anyway. The argument is usually about morality and the inhumanity of the practice. I’d like to show, by offering an illustration, that if we believe a man has a right to his own labor (except when he’s been morally taken into slavery), then we ought not object to “usury.”

Andy Clarke was right about money:

In simplest terms money is a representation of our labour with its intended function as a means for exchanging goods & labour.~ From the National Anarchist article linked to above.

With that in mind, consider my illustration:

Imagine you own waterfront property and decide to build a boat ramp. You put a lot of time and labor into it. When you’re finished, you decide to charge people five dollars to use it. They happily comply, lining up by the dozens (there’s good fishing up the river a ways), and soon, you’ve not only made back all the money you spent, you’ve earned a profit besides. Over the next few years, you make lots and lots of money on the ramp.

This is where the anti-usury crowd steps in. “No, no, no!” they say. “You can’t exploit your community this way, it’s immoral! You’re earning money despite the fact that you’re not working for it!” In their minds, the boat ramp owner is sitting back, doing nothing, while greedily raking in the funds from his neighbors.

The anti-usury crowd might suggest this isn’t a real case of “usury”. “We mean money and bank loans, not boat ramps!”

Remember Andy’s description of money above, though: it’s a representation of labor. So imagine the boat ramp is, instead, a stack of bills – say, a million dollars. Whomever did all the labor to amass that amount has every moral right (it seems to me) to charge other people to use it, exactly as the owner of a boat ramp has the right to charge for its usage. If people don’t like the price, they can use a different ramp (or get a loan from someone else, as it were).

The anti-usury crowd might try altering the illustration:

Instead of an innocent waterfront property owner, what we have instead is a property owner who builds a boat ramp in a fishing village where everyone survives on fish. The only way they can get their boats in the water and catch the fish is by using the ramp built by that property owner. Now, it seems, we have a genuine case of an evil “capitalist” exploiting his poor neighbors for the sake of greed.

But what did we learn about supply and demand in economics 101?

Since the supply of boat ramps in the community is so small (only one, hypothetically) and the demand for it so high (all the community members need it to survive) then it drives the price of boat ramps sky high. With that sort of incentive, there’s bound to be some enterprising community member who figures out a way to either build another boat ramp, or who comes up with a viable substitute.

…the only way this doesn’t work is if the evil boat-ramp owner is in league with the government to suppress competitors or some such, but that’s a problem with the state, not usury, per se.

“Money”, in the end, is simply a vehicle of our labor and all of us (excepting slaves) have a right to our own labor, to barter with it as we see fit. This basic analysis lies at the heart of all my criticism of anti-usury arguments and I hope it helps clarify my position for my friends in the Alt. Right.

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16 Responses to Shotgun Defends Usury?!

  1. GP says:

    Shotgun,

    Here are a couple of thoughts that may or may not contribute:

    1. If you’ll indulge some hairsplitting, I think it might be more helpful to define money as “indicating” labor and not “representing” it, as genuine money represents only itself and its own intrinsic value. Representative currencies (receipts) are not money in the strict sense, they are at best promises to pay and at worst pure misrepresentations or figments of imagination. Even if the promise to pay is statistically solid (say from a man of otherwise impeccable integrity), it is but a debt still to be paid bearing no intrinsic value. Such cannot be money in the strictest sense. I know that’s splitting hairs, but there is I believe a world of difference. Either way, the discussion can certainly carry on of itself with your definition.

    2. I believe you are correct that a man has stewardship over his labour, but you seem to have a hidden premise as you extend that presupposition. Your example assumes a right to lend one’s labour rather than sell it, which seems to beg the question regarding credit and usury.

    3. If a man has right to lend his labour at usury, then he has a right to lend anything at usury. However, if a man does not have right to lend anything upon usury (Deut. 23:19), then that includes his labour. Rather, as steward of his labour, he does have right to sell it (righteous slavery not withstanding).

    4. Presupposing, his right to sell his labour, and the boat ramp being genuine (though not practical) money indicating his labour, the builder has a right to either sell the ramp or sell shares in the ramp. It is true that he could use his capital investment (labour to build the ramp) and offer a boat launching service, which service he could sell (Ex. 22:15), but he would not have the right to lend the use of his ramp at usury (rent). The difference is title. If he charges, title or partnership in the title must shift. If he rents, he retains title to the ramp and therefore receives back his principle (ramp) plus usury (rent).

    5. As long as the boat ramp builder is renting his ramp, he is reaping where he has not sown; he is a thief. He has the reward for his labour already (the ramp) and now usuriously exploits the reward of his neighbour’s labour (rent payments) by leasing it out. The ramp indicates the builder’s labour; the lease of the ramp indicates his neighbour’s labor and not that of the builder. His reaping the reward of his neighbour’s labour where he had not sown is exploitation and theft.

    • Thanks for the insightful comments, GP; I can tell you’ve spent time thinking about these issues, even if I find your conclusions bizarre. I don’t want to get into some prolonged debate with you though, because I can tell that we’re operating on very different assumptions and we’d have to cover a wealth of material to do the topic justice. Instead, I’ll offer a few off-the-cuff comments corresponding to your numbered points and let you follow up if you’d like:

      1. Two points about this: A) I reject the idea that objects (money or otherwise) have “value intrinsic to themselves” preferring instead the so-called “subjective theory of value”. B) I appreciate hair-splitting and realize it’s valuable in discussions like this, but even if we split your particular hair, I don’t see how it affects my illustration. Be it indicator or representation, either way, the illustration shows that anti-usury arguments apply just as well to the common practice of paying to use a boat ramp (a practice virtually no one thinks is immoral or “thievery”) as they do to banks.

      2. I had thought clearly laying out the issue would expose how obvious it is that if we own something, we can dispense with it as we choose. It seems arbitrary and ad hoc to suggest we can dispense with it in all ways except lending.

      3. I’m not a fan of proving a point via (Bible Verse). Evangelicals do it all the time but it’s always struck me as disingenuous. If we survey Christendom, we’ll find all sorts of opinions on usury – even among men who’ve read Deuteronomy. Further, there are debates about how to apply Old Testament laws to modern contexts that are simply glossed over or ignored by putting a Bible verse in parenthesis. Consider how verse 15 says that if a runaway slave takes refuge with you, you’re not to turn him back over to his master – but then we have the book of Philemon. Lots of scholarship, exegesis, and good work needs to be done before accepting that some off-the-cuff text proves a position like this. I’m not at all convinced that Deut. 23 outlaws all “renting”.

      4. This is a bizarre application of Scripture and, you aside, I don’t know anyone else in Christendom willing to operate this way. It certainly wouldn’t happen voluntarily. To achieve this, you’d have to have some state apparatus, enforcers, etc. It leads to an entire mess of issues.

      5. Suppose I grow a watermelon and sell it for 2 dollars? Well and good until the next guy outbids the first seller and offers 50 dollars instead. Naturally, I’d sell to the second. Until a third comes along and offers me 100 (let’s say it’s the most beautiful melon ever grown). Suppose 200 people get together, pool their resources, and offer me 100,000 dollars for my watermelon, but our arrangement is, they’ll pay me over time in exchange for small chunks of melon? In this scenario, I only labored once, but the labor I did was so highly valued by the people around me, they’ve decided to pay me for it on into the future. Likewise with the boat-ramp…every time the builder receives his five-dollar charge for its use, he’s being paid for the initial act of labor he performed. He’s reaping, and reaping a very bountiful and blessed harvest, from what he sowed! Besides…in what way can a man be a thief for accepting what people freely (and gladly) offer him?

  2. GP says:

    You mentioned two excellent books by S.C. Mooney, but I would recommend another by Michael Hoffman on usury’s place in western history. The title is Usury in Christendom: The Mortal Sin that Was and Now Is Not.

    • Fr. John+ says:

      Ditto. Mega-dittoes, in fact. Reading Mooney back in the day, and reading F&H’s current columns, and knowing the godless (and damned) Jews as the masters of Usury as I do, Mr. H’s book is the ‘key’ to understanding that Christendom is forbidden to do usury… and it’s only the perfidy of a certain false ‘Tribe’ that has normalized it, even intellectually, in the ‘current year.’

  3. GP says:

    Shotgun,

    For profit or loss, I have thought through this issue long and hard, and I appreciate your response. I am not looking for a debate, not in this forum anyway; that is what our Lord made whisky and rocking chairs for. Perhaps we can enjoy such if even on the sweet porch by and by. Instead, I wanted to offer some thoughts hoping they bore more clarity than I had any real right to expect. If you’ll indulge me again, I’ll offer a couple further comments/responses and then leave it for others to comment, and if it’s all right, I’ll hope for some future opportunity for real discussion…if not on this topic, perhaps another.

    1. I agree that value is subjective. My point was simply that certain things have a certain intrinsic value imputed to them by God. Paper is a glorious thing, but it will otherwise never be as valuable as a ripe bell pepper or an egg (not a rotten one of course). To your point, silver has intrinsic value, but it’s value drops dramatically to a man stranded on a island with no hope of another person with which to trade that silver. My point was really to deny the legitimacy of calling promises to pay (receipts that supposedly represent capital) genuine money. You are right about the hair splitting, and I appreciate your patience. I think we agree that either way, the definitions are close enough to communicate. However, historically, rent has been seen as both immoral and thievery.

    2. Unless the law of God says we can dispense with it in all ways except lending…something I know we disagree on.

    3. Please understand that I am thoroughly committed to the perpetual application of the law of God in an old light Covenanter sense; I would say more stringently than the reconstructionists, though I do looove me some Rushdoony and Bahnsen. That to say, I am not quoting the scriptures as if to wave my hand and say, “these are not the droids you’re looking for.” I was not being disingenuous. I offered the passages as support for my position and food for thought. Discussing them exegetically is again for whisky and rocking chairs…not here. If you are not intrigued by those passages I understand, but surely you’d rather I make my appeal to the scriptures than something else. If my use of them is misguided, I can handle you or someone else pointing that out. Either way, don’t take a position that eliminates the legitimacy of present and future appeals to the scriptures simply for the existence of past debates.

    4. Many in Christendom have and do operate this way. It is not as bizarre as you think, and many have applied that very passage in that manner. A parallel is that it is legitimate to own a backhoe and offer your services with it, but it is not legitimate to lease it out at increase. Either way, all forms of rent have held various degrees of condemnation throughout history. I simply believe the scriptures to condemn all of it and offer the application as food for thought.

    5. Title of the watermelon changed hands; it doesn’t matter over how much time. Essentially you made a contract to sell the watermelon a few shares at a time. The buyers assumed ownership. If you contracted them to eat the watermelon a piece at a time with requirement that they restore the watermelon plus some increase, that would be usury. That was my explanation of the boat ramp. You could sell shares in the boat ramp immediately or over time, but you can’t rent it. That’s my contention based upon my understanding of Deut. 23 (and I am not alone historically…though I almost certainly am currently). As for being a thief when people give to you voluntarily, I might ask, is taking voluntary candy from a baby exploitation (in a humorous sense)? One can take advantage of folks by convincing them to voluntarily give them things…usually by preying on their natural inclination to covetousness…the desire to borrow for what God has not provided them.

    Anyway, it’s a worthy topic and one I believe we need to keep thinking about. Hopefully my contribution serves someone well even if it doesn’t convince you. BTW, save me one of those watermelons.

    Thanks brother…

    • Hey, thanks for the conversation GP – this issue (usury) is a back-burner one that has little to do with rescuing our people from oblivion. As such, I don’t make it a major issue between friends. Something we can debate about around the bonfire.

      …and yeah, I walked into it with my watermelon example. I need to think of another illustration to better demonstrate the point, preferably an agrarian one. Maybe something like: you have two farmers. One chooses to plant a red seed, the other plants a blue seed. The red seed grows 200 feet and produces 200 fruits, while the blue seed only grows 50 feet and produces 50 fruits. Is it sinful for the one farmer to gain more fruit than the other for doing the same amount of work? If we look at the boat ramp example, the man who did the labor to build the ramp is like the man who plants the red seed. His small amount of labor (in ramp building) produces lots of return over a long period.

  4. GP says:

    Don’t be ridiculous, my comment was regarding usury as a whole not simply rent as usury. The sins you listed are indeed working to expel us from our land, but my point is that a usurious people is a people who will slaughter its children, demoralize its women, disinherit its elderly, etc.

    A usurious people won’t avoid the sins you listed; they run together. That’s what “part and parcel” meant.

    It was just a suggestion based on what I thought was an excellent work by Ehud on the interwining relationship of the 6th, 7th, and 8th commandments in the destruction of a people, of which usury was an important part of his discussion.

    • I’m sorry, I just don’t see how the two are related.

      It’s almost like saying “those who eat gluten are prone to live in a society that practices abortion and homosexuality.” I just don’t see it.

      • GP says:

        Fair enough…

        I suppose if you were gluten intolerant though, you would be even less apt to create such a society?

        Take it easy man…

      • Michael Allen says:

        Where did the funding come from to brainwash the masses into doing all those signs shotgunwildatheart? You sound like you have a dog in the fight?

    • I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question. What signs?

      • Michael Allen says:

        **things… the list of depraved behaviors you mentioned in a previous post. Freakin autocorrect. Sorry

      • Well, I don’t believe that a cabal of magical jews force people to purchase twinkies.

        I do think there’s much we can lay at the feet of Hollywood, the education monopoly, news industries, and churches, but despite their crimes, I believe only the Holy Spirit can change man’s nature. Not magical jews.

        I’m not sure how that ties directly in with “usury”.

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