Is your Manchester liberalism unaware of the existence of a school of economic thought which means the triumph of man over economics, and whose principles and aims precisely coincide with those of the kingdom of God? The Fathers of the Church called mine and thine pernicious words, and private property usurpation and robbery. They repudiated the idea of personal possessions, because, according to divine and natural law, the earth is common to all men, and brings forth her fruits for the common good. They taught that avarice, a consequence of the Fall, represents the rights of property and is the source of private ownership. They were humane enough, anti-commercial enough, to feel that all commercial activity was a danger to the soul of man and its salvation. They hated money and finance, and called the empire of capital fuel for the fires of hell. The fundamental economic principle that price is regulated by the operation of the law of supply and demand, they have always despised from the bottom of their hearts; and condemned taking advantage of chance as a cynical exploitation of a neighbour’s need. Even more nefarious, in their eyes, was the exploitation of time; the montrousness of receiving a premium for the passage of time—interest, in other words—and misusing to one’s own advantage and another’s disadvantage a universal and God-given dispensation…..
“Indeed, these humane spirits were revolted by the idea of the automatic increase of money; they regarded as usury every kind of interest-taking and speculation, and declared that every rich man was either a thief or the heir of a thief. They went further. Like Thomas Aquinas, they considered trade, pure and simple, buying and selling for profit, without altering or improving the product, a contemptible occupation. They were not inclined to place a very high value on labour in and for itself, as being an ethical, not a religious concern, and performed not in the service of God, but as a part of the business of living. This being the case, they demanded that the measure of profit or of public esteem should be in proportion to the actual labour expended, and accordingly it was not the tradesman or the industrialist, but the labourer and the tiller of the soil, who were honourable in their eyes. For they were in favour of making production dependent upon necessity, and held mass production in abhorrence. Now, then: after centuries of disfavour these principles and standards are being resurrected by the modern movement of communism. The similarity is complete, even to the claim for world-domination made by international labour as against international industry and finance; the world-proletariat, which is today asserting the ideals of the Civitas Dei in opposition to the discredited and decadent standards of the capitalistic bourgeoisie. The dictatorship of the proletariat, the politico-economic means of salvation demanded by our age, does not mean domination for its own sake and in perpetuity; but rather in the sense of a temporary abrogation, in the Sign of the Cross, of the contradiction between spirit and force; in the sense of overcoming the world by mastering it; in a transcendental, a transitional sense, in the sense of the Kingdom. The proletariat has taken up the task of Gregory the Great, his religious zeal burns within it, and as little as he may it withhold its hand from the shedding of blood. Its task is to strike terror into the world for the healing of the world, that man may finally achieve salvation and deliverance, and win back at length to freedom from law and from distinction of classes, to his original status as child of God.”
Let us examine all the consequences flowing from it. Along with industry, your Christian communism would reject machinery, technique, material progress. Along with what you call trade—money and finance, which in antiquity ranked higher than agriculture and manual labour—you reject freedom. For it is clear, so clear as to be evident to the meanest intelligence, that all social relations, public and private, would be attached to the soil, as in the Middle Ages; even—I feel some reluctance to say it—even the person of the individual. If only the soil can maintain life, then only the possession of it can confer freedom. Manual labourers and peasants, however honourable their position, if they possess no real property, can only be the property of those who do. As a matter of fact, until well on in the Middle Ages the great mass of the population, even the town-dwellers, were serfs. In the course of our discussion you have let fall various allusions to the dignity of the human being. Yet you are defending the morality of an economic system which deprives the individual of liberty and self-respect.”