The Economy of the Home; The Virtuous House

I’m back from my work in Alaska a little earlier than I expected I would be. Many of my blog posts in the future will center on what I learned there, working 100+ hour work weeks in an Alaskan salmon fishery, and many more posts will in some way draw on these new experiences. For now, however, let me just say that such work was good for me; when all of life’s superficialities are stripped from us what is really important in life becomes abundantly clear and our desire to pursue them is invigorated.

I matured from this experience and I’ve decided that its time for this blog to mature a little too. Hence the new appearance and the new name, The Virtuous House. The topics of my blog have not changed but the emphasis has. I took a largely areligious approach to Democrazy because I wanted to focus on what unifies us regardless of our creed: that we are all Americans and should treat each other like fellow Americans, that we are all human beings and thus should treat each other like fellow human beings. My desire for solidarity has not changed but, with The Virtuous House, I intend to add that theological element that was sometimes lacking before. I do this not to be preachy but because my Catholic faith is the basis of my worldview, and if I’m going to share my worldview then the only way for me to do so properly requires that I share my faith.

“The basis” of my worldview.

This blog is on economics. Which is to say that it is on everything, or at least everything that matters. This blog has no specialization and I do not pretend to offer any expertise. I am not interested in such things. What I am interested in offering is truth and the stubborn nature of truth is that when it is genuine it is universal. Thus, expertise is too narrow; without the broader view of a generalist, specialization is the worst kind of lie: it is merely a part of the truth. The topic of this blog may be economics but it is economics in general. That is to say, I use it as only one of many stepping stones in order to realize a broader reality.

The words “economy” and “economics” are based on the Greek word oikos, meaning house. As author Thomas Storck put it, “Economic activity is meant to serve the more important aspects of life, our spiritual, family, social, intellectual and cultural lives.” Usually, however, when we hear the experts on the news discuss the “economy” we hear about everything except what actually relates to one’s house, one’s home, one’s personal life or one’s family. Instead, the newspapers and TV stations offer incessant updates on the “faltering national economy”, bombard us with statistics on unemployment, stir up controversy regarding such impersonal phenomena as outsourcing and trade deficits and feed us a glut of stock market chatter. Instead of house, “economics” has come to mean everything outside of the house. That great Catholic author of the early twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton, frequently pointed out the backwardness of this understanding of economics: “There is nothing queerer today than the importance of unimportant things. Except, of course, the unimportance of important things.”

Economics, properly understood, is perhaps the most relevant and important scientific discipline because it is the most personal and the most practical. It is the most practical because it is the most practiced. Not every homemaker or head of house practices chemistry or physics but every homemaker and head of house practices economics. Pope Leo XIII states in his encyclical On Capital and Labor that, “the true worth and nobility of man lie in his moral qualities, that is, in virtue.” And where else is virtue nurtured and formed in man but in the house? Thus, the object of economics is to aid in the construction of that virtuous house.

Economics

The scope, then, of this blog is much broader than statistics and market forces – those are just appetizers. The main course is America’s spiritual well-being, its intellectual well-being, its families, its society, and its culture. That is the focus of this blog, because those are the economics that matter.

“Unless the Lord builds the house,

the builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the guards stand watch in vain.

In vain you rise early

and stay up late,

toiling for food to eat—

for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Psalm 127:1-2

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