It is the strong young men of sturdy frame,
sound minds, skilled hands, stout hearts, spirits stalwart,
who build nations: who man and nature tame;
who erect the edificial rampart
of a paterfamilial surname;
who by their labors arête impart, [1]
who then these things defend.

Not so, soft money-shuffling financiers
who subsidize a global collective
conjured from a calculus in arrears;
whose diminished-returns derivative
schemes [2] subtly shift the economic spheres [3]
from substantive to speculative.
Just so, the world will end.

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[1] Greek concept of “excellence of all kinds.” In his synthesis of a desirable political community, St. Thomas Aquinas incorporates the natural extension of human habits and nature into the concept of a practical “moral excellence” (arête) contained in the political philosophies of both Aristotle and Cicero. St. Thomas’s position aligns with the Catholic tradition of viewing political community as an extension of paterfamilias, and that honoring one’s community is an extension of honoring one’s father and mother.
cf: Paul Krause, “Virtue and the City,” The Imaginative Conservative (2018).

[2] As an example, worthless derivative home mortgage-based financial products were a large part of the 2008 economic collapse and the resulting Great Recession.

[3] In the 1530s the term economy was understood to mean “household management,” from Greek oikonomia “household management, thrift.” Its meaning of “frugality, judicious use of resources” is from the 1660s. The sense of “wealth and resources of a country” (short for political economy) is from the 1650s. As an economy moves from householders to financiers, it loses its underlying basis in real goods and becomes an abstraction; the idea of wealth as a function of work likewise suffers.

The featured image is “The Moneychanger and His Wife” (1538) by Marinus van Reymerswaele (1490–1546) and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. It has been brightened for clarity.

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