By JOSEPH QUINN B.Sc. (Econ.)
THE CHURCH AND ECONOMICS, by Christopher Hollis. Faith and Fact Series (Burns and Oates, 8s. 6d.).
IN the Faith and Fact Series I we have come to expect a high standard of scholarship and presentation. Unfortunately, to my mind at least, this book does not come up to expectations.
To begin with, it is on the whole a collection of historical generalisations, too often political and rarely helpful.
Mr. Hollis confuses the "economic field" with social institutions. The right to private property is not an economic problem as he insists but a sociological and thenlogical problem, The economist takes such institutions as given.
BY no means everyone will agree with his assertion that 'In the economic field it is only to a limited extent that the Church tells the faithful what are the answers that they should give. Her main concern is to tell them the questions they should ask."
The Church gives us the moral principles which condition the use of the factors of production and their attendant institutions. These principles are the tools with which we forge the answers to clay-today problems. The questions arise unbidden. This book does not give these tools nor make those already possessed more keen. Yet the men and women who might buy it would do so precisely because they have need of means to cope with practical difficulties, They do not require to be made to ask questions, It is because they are beset with mtestions that they buy the books of a series such as this.
In a book entitled "The Church and Economics" can one consider that a passage of half a dozen lines is adeciaate to discuss the central problem of economics? Nevertheless, we arc given only one short paragraph on the theory of value and the just price: . . in so far as there was buying and selling and selling and the handling of money, it was quite alien to the medieval mind to leave such mat• ters to the free play of the market. On the contrary, the men of the Middle Ages thought that there was A just price at which goods should exchange and a just wage by which labour should be remunerated." This writing is merely sterile verbiage in which no explanation of the terms involved is attempted; indeed, in this context none is possible since all too many sources reveal that the teaching of the great from St. Thomas Aquinas to St. Alphonsus de Liguori stressed the need for as perfect a market as possible and this means "free" in the true sense of the word.
The best chapter is that on population. Here the author talks of facts and their consequences and the pages live.