instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, December 01, 2003

The end of human law

If I were looking for an extended discussion on economics and government, I wouldn't look here first, since everything I know about economics I could have learned from Ebay; but last week's post on distributism has more than a hundred comments (from, admittedly, far fewer than a hundred commenters).

I don't have many opinions about specific government economic policies, and any I may have aren't worth sharing. I'll just mention that I am persuaded by St. Thomas that, ideally, "every law is ordained to the common good." He goes on to refer to St. Isidore of Seville:
Now the end of human law is to be useful to man, as the jurist states. Wherefore Isidore in determining the nature of law, lays down, at first, three conditions; viz. that it "foster religion," inasmuch as it is proportionate to the Divine law; that it be "helpful to discipline," inasmuch as it is proportionate to the nature law; and that it "further the common weal," inasmuch as it is proportionate to the utility of mankind.
I would distinguish between fostering religion and imposing religion. A state may be a Christian state, officially or otherwise, but none is a Christian person, directing its citizens as its hands and feet to act virtuously.

The concern of the state is justice, not charity. Laws based on Gospel calls to perfect charity are not necessarily good laws simply because they're based on the Gospel. There are even aspects of justice -- particularly between family members -- that human laws cannot regulate without damaging the common good.

Or so it seems to me.

Post-script: Zenit has a news analysis piece called, "Capitalism with a Conscience" that may have something to contribute to the discussion.