Dorothy L. Sayers contra Hominem Economicum

A couple of days after I posted a piece quoting Dorothy L. Sayers — and I don’t often cite Anglican novelists — I came upon an article on the First Things site, Dorothy Sayers and Economic Society. It’s a good read, and has some useful insights. I especially like this one, on the greed of the usurer, which greed fuels modern economies and has (among other things) caused our ongoing economic collapse:

In the Inferno, the merely avaricious, the hoarders and the spendthrifts, are consigned to the Fourth Circle of Upper Hell. Comparatively, they get off lightly: Down in Nether Hell, in the Third Ring of the Circle of Violence, Dante placed the usurers, along with the blasphemers and the sodomites. Not perhaps the most obvious soulmates, but Sayers points out that the usurers ‘are violent, not only against Nature, the child of God, but also against Art, which is the Child of Nature. How so? Because, says Dante, in effect, there are only two sources of real prosperity: the produce of the earth and the labor of men’s hands . . . but the Usurer has found a third way which does violence to both Art and Nature.’ When the machinations of finance were predicated on money earning money, they were predicated on an illusion. It was an attempt to get something for nothing.

The article turns into an anti-Obama piece and a defense of capitalism, and there — for me, anyway — it falters (and no, I’ve not turned into an Obamanista!). I plead ignorance of Sayers’ real economic ideas — if she formally even had such — but the quotes that are provided certainly do not make her appear very sanguine about capitalism. I would suspect, especially from the above cited paragraph, that she rather would have leaned towards the central tenets of Distributism. (About this economic school, neither capitalist nor socialist, some reading selections can be found in our bookstore.)

(Click here if you don’t get the title.)