Neo-Scholastic Economics and Social Justice

Published October 31, 2014

Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture 15th Annual Fall Conference

“Your Light Will Rise in the Darkness:  Responding to the Cry of the Poor”

Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, 15th Annual Fall Conference

University of Notre Dame, October 31, 2014


Slide1My thanks to the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, especially to Carter Snead, my fellow Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, for organizing this rich and timely conference, to David Lutz for suggesting that I participate and offering a friendly challenge to extend the thesis of my book, Redeeming Economics (2010, pbk 2014), and to Marc Peter Neri for adding his wiener to the roast.

In my opening remarks I’d like to accomplish three things. First I’d like to explain how the original Scholastic Economics differed from both Adam Smith’s later Classical economic theory and today’s Neo-Classical Economics, which succeeded it starting in the 1870s; second, how an updated version, “Neo-Scholastic Economics,” is already reshaping  our understanding of secular economic theory and offering new policy solutions; and finally, how Scholastic Economics provided the analytical toolkit or backbone for the much younger body of Catholic social doctrine.[1]



(Click on this image and other images on this page to expand)

Dan Hammond of Wake Forest University opened a review by remarking, “Redeeming Economics is likely to be ignored by economists”; but then gave this admirably succinct summary:

What, according to Mueller, is wrong with economics? In the simplest terms familiar to economists, there is an “equation” missing from the model. Economists have “equations” for production, consumption, and exchange, but not for the primary economic choice – the choices of persons. This missing element is a theory of distribution. Mueller argues that Thomas Aquinas had a complete economic model, with all four elements. Drawing on Aristotle and Augustine, Aquinas’s economics explained production (what is produced and how), consumption (utility), exchange (commutative justice), and distribution (production or purchase for whom).

Adam Smith, the father of modern (classical) economics, dropped two of the four equations, those for consumption and distribution. With neoclassical economics the equation for consumption was restored. But neoclassical theory has nothing to say about distribution, leaving the restoration of economics incomplete. Mueller sees this reconstruction (redemption) continuing with his book, with the efforts of other nascent neo-Scholastics and, he predicts, eventually by the profession at large. Thus Mueller himself does not think his book will be ignored. Or perhaps, if it is ignored the deficiency of economics will become evident to practitioners from their experiences doing economics. Mueller expects that economists will find their way to a neo-Scholastic economics that will preserve the best of both Smith and the neoclassicals, while restoring the theory of distribution. (Hammond 2012, 73).[2]

Mine is the latter view: that “the deficiency of economics will become evident to practitioners from their experiences doing economics” so that “economists will find their way to a neo-Scholastic economics that will preserve the best of both Smith and the neoclassicals, while restoring the theory of distribution.” The technical problem is that with fewer equations than variables to be explained, the classical and neoclassical systems are “underdetermined,” thus requiring economists to adopt circular logic or empirically false assumptions (or both). I realized this by the accident of becoming an economic and financial market forecaster, which requires spelling everything out mathematically and verifiably. But in terms that most ordinary people can understand, the scholastic, classical, and neoclassical systems presuppose three different views of human and divine nature, differing on whether man and God have free will.


Since Adam Smith essentially “de-Augustinized” economics, it’s important to understand Augustine’s theories of benevolence and beneficence, which Aquinas integrated within the scholastic natural law moral philosophy and economic theory, which prevailed for five centuries before Smith.[3]

Both Augustine’s anthropology and theology had started from Aristotle’s insight that “every agent acts for an end”[4] and Aristotle’s  definition of love—willing some good to some person.[5] But Augustine drew an insight that Aristotle had not: every person always acts for the sake of some person(s). For example, when I say, “I love vanilla ice cream,” I really mean that I love myself and use (consume) vanilla ice cream to express that love (and in preference, say, to strawberry ice cream or Brussels sprouts, which order reflects my separate scale of utility).[6]


So Augustine’s crucial insight is that we humans always act on not one but two scales of preference—one for persons as ends and the other for other things as means: the scales of personal love and utility, respectively. And we express our preferences for persons with two kinds of external acts, “sale or gift.”[7]  Generally speaking, we give our wealth without compensation to people we particularly love,[8] and sell it to people we don’t, in order to provide for those we do love.[9]  Since it’s always possible to avoid depriving others of their own goods, this is the bare minimum of love expressed as benevolence or goodwill and the measure of what Aristotle called “justice in exchange.”[10]  But our positive self-love is expressed by the utility of the goods we provide ourselves, and our positive love of others with beneficence: gifts. Conversely inner hate or malevolence is outwardly expressed by the opposite of a gift: maleficence,  or crime. Instead of giving to you what belongs to me, I take or destroy what belongs to you.


This understanding of economics entails an alternate view of the history of economics; hence my book begins with a “Brief Structural History of Economics,” which describes and distinguishes the scholastic, classical, and neoclassical theories, as well as the incipient “Neoscholastic” school.[11]


But the same analysis distinguishes among schools, such as the Austrian, British, Walrasian, Distributist or “neo-Thomist” schools, and even among individual economists.[12]

Aristotle had bisected moral philosophy into ethics and politics. But scholastic philosophy and economic theory followed Thomas Aquinas by re-dividing them into three parts[13]: Hence the middle three sections of Redeeming Economics are devoted to personal, domestic, and political prudence, or “economy.”


In each chapter, after re-stating and updating the scholastic economic theory, I focus on a salient practical application in which neoclassical and neoscholastic economics reach divergent empirical predictions–for example, disproving the famous claim by economist Steven D. Levitt, featured in his megabestseller Freakonomics, that the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion in 1973 caused the crime rate to fall 15-20 years later, by eliminating potential criminals (Levitt and Dubner 2005, 117-144).


Actually, as I show, there is a 90% current, inverse relation between “economic fatherhood” and homicide. The data actually show that legalizing abortion raised crime rates immediately and with a lag.


The final chapter concerns “divine economy,” which was Aristotle’s name for metaphysics. Three alternate world views are presupposed by (Neo-) Scholastic, classical, and neoclassical economics: biblically orthodox natural law, the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies, respectively. Though differing ultimately about immaterial realities–the existence or nature of God or the soul–these three views lead to starkly different behavior among people and starkly different predictions by economists.[14]


Scholastic economics and Catholic social thought. To understand the relation between scholastic economics and Catholic social thought, it’s helpful to distinguish the history of economics–that is, the economic theory used by economic thinkers to describe any economic activity–from economic history: how the economic aspect of society develops: for example, the progressive transition of the United States (and in fact most countries) from agriculture to industry to services. Roughly speaking, scholastic economic theory is the analytical toolkit that the popes have used to discuss the new pastoral challenges of economic history as it unfolds.

It may seem that encyclicals on economics are abstract, but in fact they are always tied to analysis of some concrete historical event. The first encyclical of the Church’s modern social thought, in 1891, was called Rerum Novarum — literally, “of new things — in which Pope Leo XIII dealt with the new social and political challenges raised by industrialization.[15] Several subsequent encyclicals further developed and applied this analysis as conditions changed.

In the 1960s, after the decolonization of much of Africa, Asia and Central and South America following the Second World War, the horizons of the Church’s social thought widened to embrace the emerging so-called “Third World.” Moved by the poverty he witnessed on his travels, Pope Paul VI argued in Populorum Progressio (“The Development of Peoples”) that “the social question has become worldwide.”

Pope John Paul II elaborated and joined these two strains in his three major encyclicals on economic matters, Laborem Exercens, his encyclical on the dignity and vocation of work, and two others that began by looking back at an earlier papal encyclicals, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis[16] and Centesimus Annus, which as the title indicates was issued on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.[17] Its particular merit is to bring both strains of the Church’s social thought into a single unified framework.

Similarly, Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Vertitate (“Charity in Truth”) was originally intended for 2007, the fortieth anniversary of Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, and was notable for emphasizing the “gratuitousness” — the giftedness, if you will– of Creation and even the economy. Deus Caritas Est, drafted under John Paul II and published by Benedict XVI, is valuable for its concise description of the relation among the natural law, Catholic social doctrine, the roles of the Church and secular politics.[18]

Even if we disagree, at least in part, I think the model for disagreement was well expressed by Thomas Aquinas: “We must respect both parties, namely, those whose opinion we follow, and those whose opinion we reject. For both have diligently sought the truth and have aided us in this matter.”[19]



John D. Mueller response

“How Should We Describe General or Social Justice?”


Both David Lutz and Marc Peter Neri have presented stimulating papers offering me friendly challenges to extend my analysis.


David Lutz’s paper begins with an accurate overview of the “neoscholastic” economic theory outlined in Redeeming Economics,[20] then attempts to extend this theory “in the direction of a theory of management.”[21]

“As a contribution to a revised theory of the business firm,” he says, “I propose that we look to the species of Aristotelian justice that Mueller does not mention”–namely what Aristotle and Aquinas called “general justice.”[22] He goes on to note that the term “general justice” is now commonly called “social justice,” though the latter term is “problematic.”[23] But following Heinrich Pesch,, he proposes to rename  general or social justice as “contributive justice,” [24] and in doing so borrows a chart from Josef Pieper’s book, The Cardinal Virtues, to illustrate his conception of the relations  among distributive justice, commutative justice and general justice.


Marc Peter Neri summarizes his argument with another triangle, using the concepts Logos, Ethos and Pathos, which Aristotle described as the three principles of rhetoric:  Logos to represent personal ownership, Ethos professional virtue, and Pathos to sympathy with human need.

While I think there is merit in both schemes, I’d like to offer a word of caution against mistaking a symmetrical diagram for the human reality the diagram attempts to describe.

Aquinas’s key passage, which David Lutz helpfully cited, states that general justice is “general ‘virtually,'” but not “essentially,” as for example “‘animal’ is general in relation to man and horse.” [25]


Table 2-1 in Redeeming Economics compares Aristotle’s with Aquinas’s “maps” of human knowledge and of human virtues, listing all the particular virtues. I would like to present that table here, but including “general justice” where it seems to belong.[26] As Aquinas says, “there must be one supreme virtue essentially distinct from every other virtue, which directs all the virtues to the common good; and this virtue is legal justice.”[27] He notes that corresponding (and superior) to the “special virtue” of general justice, which orders other virtues to the common good, is the “special virtue” of charity, which orders all particular virtues to God.[28]

As I noted in Redeeming Economics, in his “solidarist” economics, Heinrich “Pesch got the original Scholastic economic theory almost but not quite right.”[29] I specifically mention the fact that by omitting Augustine’s theory of personal gifts, Pesch makes distributive justice do all the work.

But it is also characteristic of Pesch and his followers to conflate social or general with distributive justice: for example in the statement David Lutz quoted in a version of the paper he presented earlier this year: “The term social justice is today generally used as a synonym of what used to be called distributive justice.”[30] As David says, this understanding is “problematic,” but he doesn’t explain exactly why.

Equating social justice with distributive justice is incorrect because distributive justice always refers to common goods. To mistake general or social justice as equivalent to distributive justice, one must erroneously presume that all goods are common goods. If we accept the term “social justice” as equivalent to general justice, it must refer to all goods–not just common goods, but also personal gifts of individual goods, which, as I noted, Pesch’s economic theory omitted.

I do think that the term “contributive justice” can have a coherent meaning, though not as a synonym for general or social justice. Distributive justice may have either a positive or negative sign–for example, negative when I pay my taxes to support the public goods of national defense or administration of justice, but positive for any recipients of the resulting benefit (say, when paying a soldier or judge). The first can properly be called “contributive” justice, and if so, the second might be called “redistributive justice.”

So if one wishes to say that justice is “threefold,” naming distributive, commutative and legal justice, it is necessary simultaneously to acknowledge that the first two are particular kinds of justice–directed by, but different from, the third, “special virtue” of general justice.

To Marc Peter Neri I pose the question: Must (or even can) we choose, say, between logos and pathos? I don’t think so. G.K. Chesterton once observed that a man is fortunate to marry the woman he loves, but he is more fortunate to love the woman he marries. The first is a kind of deep or passionate affection, while the second is an act of  the rational will. Most higher animals love in the first way; only persons love in the second way; and only human persons, being rational animals, love in both ways at the same time.



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[1] These opening remarks are adapted from presentations at panels on Redeeming Economics at annual conferences of the History of Economics Society (HES) in 2011 and Association for Private Enterprise Education (APEE) in 2012, published in Biddle and Emmett eds. (2013).

[2] In the book I note that I use the term “redeem” in the sense of “fulfill (an earlier promise or pledge).” If, as I believe, the next phase in economics is Neoscholastic, it will have fulfilled its original promise.

[3] In the book I typically use the term “final distribution,” to distinguish it from “distribution” as the term has been used since Adam Smith. The original scholastic theory of distribution comprises Augustine’s theory of personal distribution–gifts and their opposite, crimes–and in every social community (like a family or political community), what Aristotle called “distributive justice.” Smith conflated what is more properly called “compensation” or “justice in exchange” with distribution properly so called, by introducing the assumption that “every individual … intends only his own gain.” (Smith 1966 [1776], Wealth of Nations, IV.ii.9, accessed on 19 September 2009 from I recount Smith’s oversimplification of the scholastic economic theory he had been taught by his teacher Frances Hutcheson in Mueller 2010 chapter 3.

[4] This concise  formulation seems to be that of Aquinas, paraphrasing Aristotle’s Physics, ii, 5: Summa 1-II Q1. A2:; cf.

[5] Aristotle (1932 [335-322 B.C.]), p. 2, p. 4, pp. 102-103.

[6] Augustine also introduced the important distinction between “private” goods like bread, which inherently only one person at a time can consume, and “public” goods (like national defense, enforcement of justice, or even this panel) which, at least within certain limits, many people can simultaneously enjoy, because they are not “diminished by being shared” (i.e., scarce) Augustine (395-396), viii, 19, p. 146. Private goods are now sometimes called “rival” goods. The formulation “diminished by being shared” is from Augustine (396/397), I, 2.

[7] Augustine (395/396), p. 131.

[8] To be more precise, love with both benevolence and beneficence.

[9] Or rather, love only with benevolence but not beneficence.

[10] Aristotle 1954 [c. 350 BC], V, v; pp. 117-122.

[11] The simplified version merely lists “yes” or “no” to denote the presence or absence of each fundamental element of economics. The three schools of neoclassical economics originated with  Jevons 1871, Menger 1976 [1871], and Walras 1954 [1874]).

I presented the (neo-)scholastic system and contrasted it with subsequent classical and neoclassical revisions in Redeeming Economics (Mueller 2010) as follows (pp. 375, 400, 416):

(1) CKi + CLi = YiDii/SDij [final distribution function],

where CKi, and CLi represent the use (“consumption”) by Person i of the services of his or her human capital, Li, and nonhuman capital, Ki; Yi is total compensa­tion (labor and property income) of Person i; Dii is the significance of Person i to himself, and SDij is the significance of all persons to Person i.

For clarity and simplicity later on, we will define

(5) Yi = rKi+ wLi

meaning that Yi is the total net factor compensation (labor and property income) of Person i; and

(6) Ti = Yi – YiDii/dDij.

By substituting (5) and (6), (1) may therefore be restated as

(1a) CKi, + CLi = Yi – Ti.

This makes clear that the difference between Person i’s total consumption, CKi + CLi, and total compensation, Yi, is equal to Ti—(net) personal, domestic, and political “transfer payments” from Person i to other persons. Transfer payments comprise any income not received as compensation for contributing to current production. “Net” means that personal gifts made are offset by gifts received, while taxes are treated as transfers paid to the government and balanced against government transfers received.

For a purely selfish person, the distributive share Dii/SDij is 100 percent; for a person who makes gifts to others, less than 100 percent; for a criminal, more than 100 percent; and for the victim of crime (or abortion), less than zero percent.

(2) Ui = f(CKi, CLi) [utility function],

where Ui is the ranking by Person i (“utility”) of CKi, and CLi, the units con­sumed in use by Person i of the services of his or her nonhuman goods, Ki, and human capital, Li, respectively. In reality, K and L are not two goods but two classes of goods consumed: (K1, K2, . . . ,Kn) and (L1, L2, . . . ,Ln). Scarcity implies that the value of each unit consumed declines as the number of units increases (dU/dC<0: “declining marginal utility”) and that goods are “used up”—that is, rendered unusable—by consumption (for example, CKi = -DKi).

(3a) dKi = f1(Ki, Li) [production function for nonhuman capital];

(3b) dLi = f2(Ki, Li) [production function for human capital];

where DKi is the change in the stock (production) of nonhuman goods and dLi the change in the stock of “human capital,” owned by Person i.

(4) PKdKi+PLdLi = rKi+wLi, where PK and PL are the unit prices of K and L, respectively, w labor compensation per unit of L, r property compensation per unit of K. (PL is a market price only in a slave-owning society, like ancient Ath­ens or the antebellum American South.)

To summarize: The neoclassical economists restored the utility function (equation [2] above). They restored the two-factor production function (3a) and (3b). But until about 1960, they interpreted both human and nonhuman capital as being limited to tangible factors. The neoclassical economists followed Adam Smith in ignoring the dis­tribution function in theory, but in practice they have assumed that everyone is purely selfish, thus adding the restrictive assumption Dii/SDij = 1. As with Adam Smith, this special assumption collapses equation (1) into:

(1b) CKi +CLi = Yi.

It also means of course that there are no personal gifts, crimes, common goods, or distributive justice:

(6a) Ti = 0.

[12] For example, I might note my own migration from the Chicago School as of Mueller 1996 to the Neo-Scholastic School in Mueller 2014 [2010].

[13] Aquinas, T. (1981 [1265-72]) II-II Q47 A11 contra and corpus,, and Q50 A3,

[14] To stay within our time limits, I will not summarize these world views in my oral remarks. But briefly put: In (neo-) scholastic natural law, economics is a theory of rational providence, describing how we “rational,” “matrimonial,” and “political animals” choose both persons as “ends” (which we express by our personal and collective gifts) and the scarce means to be used (consumed) by or for those persons, which we make real through production and exchange.

By dropping both distribution (the choice of persons as ends) and consumption (the choice of other things as means), Smith expressed the Stoic pantheism that viewed the universe “to be itself a Divinity, an Animal”  with God as its immanent soul, so that sentimental humans choose neither ends nor means rationally; instead, “every individual…intends only his own gain…and is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

By restoring utility (the choice of means) but not distribution (the choice of persons as ends), neoclassical economics expressed the Epicurean materialism that claims humans somehow evolved as merely clever animals, highly adept at calculating means but having no choice other than self-gratification, since “reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions,” as Hume put it.

[15] While affirming the right of private property, and predicting the failure of communism, he insisted on the dignity and rights of workers and the need to protect the weakest, by government intervention if necessary.

[16] SRS was  published on the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, and was intended to fill “the need for a fuller and more nuanced concept of development” than had previously been put forward. In it, he argued that the terms “poverty” and “development” mean poverty or development of the whole person, not just the economic or political system.

[17] In it, the pope looked back at what remains valid in the social thought begun in that encyclical, but also took note of the “new things” which had emerged, such as changes in the nature of Western economies and the collapse of communism.

[18] “25. Thus far, two essential facts have emerged from our reflections:

  1. a) The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.
  2. b) The Church is God’s family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life. Yet at the same time caritas- agape extends beyond the frontiers of the Church. The parable of the Good Samaritan remains as a standard which imposes universal love towards the needy whom we encounter “by chance” (cf. Lk 10:31), whoever they may be. Without in any way detracting from this commandment of universal love, the Church also has a specific responsibility: within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need. The teaching of the Letter to the Galatians is emphatic: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).”

[19] Aquinas paraphrasing Aristotle in his Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics 1073a14-1073b17 (tr. By Rowan)

[20] David Lutz’s paper seeks to contribute to a philosophical theory of business management within the tradition of natural law and virtues, mentioning Plato, Aristotle and Cicero as well as such medieval philosophers as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, but also modern philosophers and economists including (particularly) Heinrich Pesch (1854-1926), Josef Pieper (1904-1997) and Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929).

[21] I place in endnotes comments I did not have time to make in my oral remarks. Unfortunately, I did not have time to emphasize my agreement with his point, the fruit of many years in Africa, that “Efforts to alleviate Africa’s material poverty should focus not only on the distribution of existing wealth to Africans, but also on the production of new wealth by Africans.”

David Lutz gives a pretty thorough precis of my recounting of the history of economics, from its scholastic beginnings when Thomas Aquinas’s integrated elements from Aristotle and Augustine of Hippo, Adam Smith’s radical over-simplification, the reinvention and updating of Augustine’s theory of utility starting in the 1870s, and finally, my claim that we have already entered the next “neo-scholastic” phase.

David’s point of entry is working out a neo-scholastic theory of business management[, about which he correctly says I wrote relatively little, beyond reclaiming Aquinas’s threefold division of moral philosophy into personal, domestic and political prudence or “economy,” and noting that the modern business firm and non-profit organization are both offshoots of the ancient household: the modern household specializes in producing and maintaining people, while the modern business firm specializes in producing and maintaining productive property, and the modern non-profit specializes in distributing gifts beyond the household.

[22] “Both distributive justice and commutative justice play important roles in Mueller’s theory. But the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas understands that there is a third kind of justice. Aristotle makes a distinction between justice as a particular virtue, which includes distributive and commutative justice, and justice as a general virtue, which is concerned with obedience to just laws and promotes the good of the community.  Aquinas follows Aristotle in understanding ‘general’ or ‘legal’ justice to be directed toward the common good.”

[23] “Although some authors prefer to call it ‘social justice,’ this name is problematic, since it has a wide range of meanings within contemporary discussions of justice and is often used to mean distributive justice.”

[24] Lutz argues, “When economic production is understood not only in terms of ‘combining the useful services of people and of property,’ but also as meeting the demands of contributive justice, management can become an integral part of Mueller’s theory of neo-Scholastic economics. The purpose of management is neither to maximize long-term shareholder value nor merely to benefit stakeholders, but to contribute to the common good, the good of a community.”

[25] Aquinas, T. (1981 [1265-72]), S.T. II-II Q58  corpus, available at  Aquinas concludes the passage: “It follows therefore that the good of any virtue, whether it orders a man toward his very self, or orders him toward some other individual persons, is referable to the common good, to which justice is ordered. And according to this the acts of every virtue can belong to justice insofar as it orders a man toward the common good. It is in this sense that justice is called ‘general virtue.’ And since it belongs to law to order to the common good, as stated above, whence it is that such justice, said in a way to be ‘general,’ is called ‘legal justice,’ because through it a man harmonizes with the law ordering the acts of all the virtues to the common good.” John Goyette, whom David Lutz also cites, paraphrases Aquinas (I think pretty accurately) as follows: “The virtue of legal justice aims at the good of the whole political community and thereby serves all those who participate in that whole. Because it orders or directs all the other moral virtues, legal justice is called ‘general virtue’ (virtus generalis), and the actions of all the other virtues are said to belong to justice, to become in some sense acts of justice. While the virtue of particular justice is limited or restricted to certain kinds of actions, ‘general justice’ pertains to the full range of human actions by ordering the actions of all the other virtues to the common good.” Goyette (2013), p. 148.

[26] My omission of general justice from Redeeming Economics was probably related to my deformation professionelle of being an economic and financial market forecaster: As I suggest below, while particular virtues like justice in exchange and distributive justice can be unambiguously quantified, the “special virtues” of general justice and charity apparently cannot.

[27] S.T. II-II Q58 ad4, available at This suggests that general or social justice may not be unambiguously quantifiable. Yet there may be great heuristic value in attempts to do so, for example Luigi Toma’s effort to devise a “Catholic Social Thought Index (CSTI) in Toma 2014.

[28] III Q23  A4: To place general justice and charity in proper perspective, it is helpful to quote the final two sentences in The Four Cardinal Virtues which immediately precede the chart that David Lutz uses to illustrate his argument about general justice: “For it is true, as Thomas says, that ‘mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution’; but also that ‘justice without mercy is cruelty.’ Now it becomes possible to state the inner limits of justice: ‘To be willing to watch over peace and harmony among men through the commandments of justice is not enough when charity has not taken firm root among them.'” Pieper 1965, 112-113.

[29] In assessing Pesch correctly, I say,  “We must start by clearing the ground of debris strewn by decades of brawling admirers and detractors,” and go on:

“Pesch’s admirers are typified by Richard E. Mulcahy, who claimed in The Economics of Heinrich Pesch (1952) that ‘Pesch is the first theorist who constructed an integrated economic theory based on Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy.” Its publisher similarly calls the Lehrbuch ‘a kind of Summa Economica.’ Actually, as we’ve seen, the first theorist who constructed an integrated economic theory based on Thomistic philosophy was Thomas Aquinas, whose outline was taught and developed at the highest university level for five centuries before Adam Smith. The term Aristotelian-Thomistic flags the debility that prevented Pesch from producing a modern summary of Scholastic economics: its neglect of a central feature, St. Augustine’s theory of personal gifts.

“Though extraordinarily fruitful, the Thomistic revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in which Pesch participated was burdened by a neo-Thomism that viewed Aquinas as restating an essentially Aristotelian philosophy. As I have suggested, the formula of Scholastic economics, is Aristotle + Augustine = Aquinas. The neo-Thomist formula, on the other hand, is “AA economics”: Aristotle = Aquinas (= Catholic social doctrine. Which raises the obvious question: After Aristotle, why do we need Aquinas or Catholic social doctrine?).” Mueller 2014 [2010], p. 118.

[30] Burke (2010), p. 297, cited in Lutz 2014a.

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