In addition to some of its more unfortunate statements, Caritas in Veritate is also a gigantic missed opportunity. There are legitimate moral concerns to be raised about the structure of the world’s monetary systems, but Benedict XVI does not discuss them.
If those moral concerns interest you, I suggest Jörg Guido Hülsmann’s brilliant work The Ethics of Money Production, or my The Church and the Market. (The former title was greeted with great enthusiasm in The Wanderer by Paul Likoudis, a good man whom I would classify as a third-way distributist of some sort, so its appeal extends well beyond the usual Misesian circles.) Hülsmann shows that within Catholic tradition there is ample testimony to the wickedness of monetary debasement, fractional-reserve banking, and numerous other institutional commonplaces we hardly give a second thought. As Hülsmann argues, there is no moral or economic case for the monetary system under which we are forced to live—a system that has never been introduced voluntarily but has always been enforced by violence, with the police empowered to suppress alternatives. The insidious nature of the government’s monopoly on money becomes even clearer when a currency degenerates into hyperinflation, all known examples of which have occurred under monopoly fiat-money systems. Short of a completely state-run system, it is as far from a free market as one can imagine.
The system we have now involves a government-privileged central bank with a monopoly on the creation of legal-tender money, charged with watching over a cartel of ostensibly private but also state-privileged commercial banks. Its debasement of money makes it very difficult for people to save for the future without having to become speculators of one kind or another. A hard-money system, on the other hand, permitted the average person to save for the future simply by accumulating precious-metal coins, which, back in the days when they served as money, held or increased their value over time. Who today would save for the future by piling up Federal Reserve Notes? Society’s most vulnerable now must enter the stock market or take other kinds of risks just to hold on to their wealth. Is this not a moral issue?
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