by Brad Nelson 7/9/14
Here’s the introduction to John Horvat’s book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society–Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go. I started reading this last night and so far, so good. For $4.95 for the Kindle, it would appear to be a bargain. I may do a full review if the book holds my interest and I make it to the end.
I found this foreword to the book itself to be pretty good:
Foreword by Harry C. Veryser
The argument presented in this book is very unique in that it is at the same time very old and very new. It reaches back through the philosophers to the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle. In his book, The Republic, Plato presents an argument that the state of the Commonwealth is the state of the individual souls writ large. Plato saw in democratic societies a danger that the desires of the people for bodily satisfactions would outrun the resources of the State and result, eventually, in a tyranny.
Aristotle also was concerned about the problems of the democratic society in which people, being free, would allow their desires to become disorderly and inimical to the common good. To overcome this tendency, he recommended a mixed or constitutional regime.
This argument was taken up in the mid-twentieth century by the prominent writer Russell Kirk. In an important essay, “The Problem of Social Justice,” Kirk argued that disorder in the soul reflects itself in disorder in the Republic.
In Return to Order, John Horvat II continues the argument by teasing out its application to the present twenty-first century. Applying it to the economic, financial, social, and finally moral crisis faced by Western civilization, he argues for a return to the cardinal virtues, particularly temperance. This is a new way of looking at the present economy and social order.
While Plato and Aristotle focused on the political factors—that of a democratic society and the inordinate desire of the population to use political measures to achieve their satisfactions—Horvat sees our enormous technological success, from the Industrial Revolution to our days as a major factor. With the increase in productivity, people were able to realize a standard of living hereto only dreamed of by past generations. As more desires were fulfilled, this led to frantic explosions of expectations. So great was the desire to fulfill these benefits that political society began to break down the necessary preconditions for a prosperous society. Intemperance reigned!
Since intemperance is a matter of habit, people became habituated to great expectations and fulfillment, until finally, in the words of one economist, they began to consume the seed corn of moral capital. In this way, self-interest exhausted itself in intemperance.
It was almost as if a young man, left with a great legacy by his grandparents, destroyed the trust fund. One could go back to Scripture to the story of the Prodigal Son where the young man, having received great wealth, wasted it on intemperate desires.
Horvat sees America as that type of society. He argues that the inability of many to control their desires led to “frenetic intemperance” setting the tone for society as a whole. And what was the consequence? The profligate wasting of a great inheritance.
Horvat calls us to return to our Father’s House, not just individually, but collectively. If we do this, not only will we restore our individual souls to a more virtuous state, but America will be a great and prosperous nation once more.
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