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The last text of Jacques Maritain

on Tuesday, 08 November 2016. Posted in Economic Democracy (book)

Economic Democracy - Appendix A

Appendix — The last text of Jacques Maritain

Jacques Maritain and Paul VIMaritain and Paul V

Jacques Maritain, whom Louis Even quoted several times in his articles, is a French philosopher who died in 1973, at the age of 91, and who specialized in the study of the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and their implementation in today's society. Having authored many books, he was held in high esteem in ecclesiastical circles — Pope Paul VI had even chosen him to represent men of science at the closing ceremony of the Second Vatican Council in 1966.

The night before his death, April 29, 1973, he finished writing a text aimed at summarizing all of his thoughts on the topic that he considered the most important for today's society. What is very interesting for the members of the Louis Even Institute and those who are sympathetic to the Social Credit idea, is that this topic was money, and especially the denunciation of money lending at interest, which creates unpayable debts.

In his text, Maritain speaks of a society where the State would create “tokens” to represent money, and these tokens would be issued as much as needed to be used by every citizen: “Each citizen would receive enough tokens to allow every individual to live comfortably, with the guarantee of a standard of living that is high enough to enjoy an existence worthy of a human being, and cover the basic needs (shelter, clothing, food, medical care, etc.) of a family, and its intellectual life. It goes without saying that all taxes to be paid to the State would disappear in this new system.”

Without having all of their technique and perfection, it is close to the Social Credit principles of C. H. Douglas and Louis Even. But what we want to stress here is Chapter 5 of this text of Maritain, that condemns straightforwardly money lending at interest, recalling the centuries-old teaching of the Church that usury consists of any interest that is exacted by the lender from the borrower solely as the price of the loan. Here is this chapter:

In our society every kind of loan at interest would lose its reason for being, since the State would supply on demand, to anyone who wants to start a business or an institution, all the tokens he needs

It is since the 16th century, when it carried the day legally, that lending at interest took for the present civilization an absolutely decisive importance, so it is this practice of money lending at interest in the present days that I have in mind with the following thoughts, without forgetting that the whole story of money lending is highly revealing. In fact, this story is the most humiliating one that can be found in human affairs. For while the human spirit condemned this practice on behalf of the truth and of the nature of things, it made its way into our practical behavior, and finally established its authority in accordance with our material needs taken as an end in itself, but separated from the total good of the human person.

As a result, our field of action was split in two parts, and now we imagine that the business world constitutes a separated world, with its own absolute values, being independent from the superior values and standards that make life worthy of man

The truth about money lending is told by Aristotle, in a decisive way, when he declares false and pernicious the idea of the fecundity of money, and asserts that, of all social activities, the worst is that of the money lender, which forces money — a thing that is naturally sterile — to produce gains, whereas the sole property of money is to be used as a unit of measurement of things.

To use the money one owns to support one's life, to satisfy one's desires, or to get new goods by spending it, to improve our existence, is normal and good. But to use money to make breed more money, as though money was fecund, and yield interest (in Greek, it was called the “offspring of money”), is, of all the means of getting richer, the “most contrary to nature”, and can only take place by exploiting the work of other people. One is therefore perfectly right to hate money lending at interest..

The Church, in her pure doctrinal teaching, condemned lending money at interest as firmly as Aristotle did. For a long time, civil legislation was in keeping with the teaching of the Church, and said that any loan must be free. All those (and they were many) who infringed this law were punished.

It was not long before the middle of the 17th century that civil law broke away from the doctrinal teaching of the Church, thus allowing the business world to consider as normal and legitimate the practice of lending money at interest. But the pure doctrinal teaching of the Church, that condemned purely and simply money-lending at interest, was still there

It is much to the credit of the Papacy that, at a time when the market civilization, which had begun in the 12th century, was triumphant, Pope Benedict XIV published in 1745 the famous encyclical letter Vix Pervenit, which prohibited money lending at interest, saying that it is a sin to admit that in a loan, the lender must receive more than the sum he lent.

And later, when 19th-century capitalism flourished, Pope Leo XIII denounced, in his encyclical letter Rerum Novarum, “rapacious usury” as being a scourge of the present economic system.

But the business world could not care less about the Church's prohibitions, and in modern times, money-lending at interest eventually imposed itself with irresistible force, and it has become the essential sinews, the motor nerve of the present economic system, which cannot exist without it

To think that money can breed money is just an illusion. Money is not fertile… Once the principle of money lending at interest is accepted, even if theoretical studies and essays are accumulated to remedy all of its vices, they will never succeed, because the whole system is based on a false principle, that of the fecundity of money.

Jacques Maritain


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