When discussing economic models, it is easy to become overly focused on technical and statistical analysis and disregard social and cultural factors. In the 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, we affirm that every economic model has its impact upon the society in which it is embedded.
In fact, a great part of the present crisis stems from the fact that modern economy with its frenetic intemperance strongly influences a corresponding society with its own set of values. It gives rise to a mentality that we call the rule of money.
The rule of money is, of course, the misuse of money. This rule transforms money from a common means of exchange into the principal measure of all relationships and values. Tragically under this rule, there is an entirely different way of looking at life—a mentality—where social, cultural and moral values are put aside. It is a mentality that reduces everything to the terms of a commercial contract, drafted, signed, and carried out at a frenetic pace.
Thus, modern economic activity becomes cold and impersonal; mechanical and inflexible. A materialistic set of values is put in place that attaches more importance to quantity over quality, utility over beauty, matter over spirit. Concretely it gives rise to a climate of absorbing self-interest, commercialization, speculation and credit expansion.
The only effective means to oppose the rule of money is a return to an opposing rule—a different mentality with another set of values—that has always stood contrary to the rule of money. We call this opposing rule, the rule of honor.
A rule of honor gives much more value to the human element which should permeate society and economy. It communicates a social atmosphere of respect, affection and courtesy. It towers above that which is strictly material, functional and practical. Honor speaks of values in society that cannot be bought and sold.
The rule of honor is a fitting response to the rule of money because it defines a lifestyle that naturally leads men to esteem and seek after those things that are excellent. It introduces into the marketplace a set of values that treasures quality, beauty, goodness and charity. The rule of honor favors the calming influence of the cardinal virtues which inject balance into society and economy.
When honor reigns, money’s influence wanes, institutions are zealous of their reputation, families uphold their good names, and culture flourishes. Honor does not destroy economy but enhances it since men make abundant use of material goods as a means to make life in society dignified, upright and agreeable to body and soul.
Return to Order affirms that the best way to fight the influence of the rule of money is to fill society with principles, ideas and moral values. When honorable guiding principles govern conduct, money cannot buy men’s loyalty. When society is blessed with a rich, solid, and balanced intellectual life, knowledge and wisdom overshadow money. When society has morals, the appeal to use money to facilitate sin falls upon deaf ears.
In short, the overthrow of the rule of money requires a moral regeneration centered on the rule of honor and its set of values. It further calls for linking these values with those of Christian civilization. Without this change of values, all efforts to reform society and economy will be in vain.
Return to Order is all about this great clash of mentalities between the rule of money and the rule of honor. We describe the present economic crisis that now threatens to destroy the rule of money. We also describe the characteristics of a society and economy based on the rule of honor to which we might return. In doing this, the book enters fully in the grand debate over America’s future.