Tonlieux have been a topic of discussion lately in libertarian circles. A tonlieu is a fee paid to a sovereign in exchange for safe passage or residence in his domains or for access to the markets thereof, and for the protection of his laws. Tonlieux were common in Medieval Europe. Domains of all sorts – cities, counties and abbeys, and of course duchies, principalities, and kingdoms – charged a fee to travellers who traversed or stayed in their lands or transacted in their markets (or used their bridges, ferries, or roads), no matter how short or long their stay. Payment of the tonlieu was manifest in an insignia – a visa – on a passport, which amounted to a receipt for payment. If you were in country without a current visa, you were not reliably under the sovereign’s protection, and so (in general, and with due allowance for differences in the detail of enforcement from one domain to another) might be fair game for footpads and highwaymen, thieves and burglars, muggers and fraudsters; and might be without recourse in any local court of law (which usually amounted to the throne room of the local sovereign); and might furthermore be subject to immediate deportation upon detection by the cops, if not also taking without compensation (in such cases the cops would take their cut of the expropriated assets and pass them up the hierarchy, with each level taking a cut, and the sovereign fisc last in line, although not least)(“civil forfeiture” has been around for a very long time: ‘cop’ is from the Latin capere, to take).
The recent proposals for tonlieux vary considerably. Since I’ve been talking up the notion for years, I might as well here offer a more detailed explanation of what I would propose. It is of course subject to change as I learn more.
The tonlieu has come to the fore of late as a potential policy response to the recent titanic crisis of illegal immigration, both in the US and in Europe. It could solve that problem, completely and quickly. But by no means is that all it could do. It could ensure that *all* aliens who enter or reside in a country are treated properly; which is to say, *as aliens* – i.e., as respected visitors – and *not* as permanent residents. It could cure and prevent the deleterious effects upon a nation of massive immigration of foreigners – which cannot but dilute its native cult and culture, thereby weakening it. It could be a massive source of revenue for the sovereign fisc.
These are all different aspects of the basic effect of an optimal tonlieu: it would introduce economic rationality into immigration policy. Access to a good country is itself an economic good. It ought therefore to be explicitly and legally priced, and paid for. Or else, the good of that good country will be simply taken and consumed by those who have nowise paid for it, and without compensation to those who, with their forefathers, helped build and maintain it, at no small cost to themselves, and who now possess and enjoy it as their own patrimony. To the extent that the price of entry to a country is not optimal, or – as now – even negative, immigration policy is radically insane. It amounts to giving away bits of the store to everyone who comes in the door, whether or not they buy anything from its inventory.
In brief, then, and remembering to distinguish tonlieux from tolls (or use taxes) or transaction taxes (sales tax, VAT, and the like):
- The tonlieu is divided into two parts: rent on the visa, and a security deposit. The rent is the price of staying in country for a given period, and is renewable for periods of up to a year. The security deposit is refundable upon departure from the country, but is forfeit in the event the depositor is convicted of a crime (minor infractions of traffic laws excepted) or held liable for a civil tort, or overstays his visa. If an alien fails to renew his visa, and has not documented his departure from the country and thus recollected his security deposit, that deposit immediately, automatically and irrevocably escheats to the sovereign fisc.
- The rent must be renewed. The maximum renewal period is one year. The rent per diem can vary: it can rise or fall unpredictably.
- The security deposit is equal to the rental portion of the tonlieu as of the date of payment. If you’ve been in country for a year and the rental portion of the tonlieu changes by 10%, so does your security deposit upon renewal of the visa.
- As with the optimal tariff, the price of the rent is set at the point where sovereign revenue on sales of visas stops increasing. The sovereign can increase the tonlieu ad libitum, even within a single day. He increases the price from what seems to him a reasonable base until his revenues level off; that’s market equilibrium. If revenue on visa sales later decreases, he can lower the price until the decrease of revenues stops.
- There is no upper bound to the number of visas that may be sold in any given period. The limit on aliens allowed in country is set by the market price of visas. The greater the demand to enter a good country, the higher the tonlieu. With prices set optimally, only the wealthiest and most productive foreigners will want to travel to a country that is of great value, such as the US or the UK; i.e., only they will be find such travel economical.
- If optimal tonlieux were a regular feature of international travel, there would be a lot less such travel. Somalia would be a cheap destination, of course, for because no one wants to go there anyway, its tonlieux would be very cheap; that would not induce travelers to come to Somalia. Switzerland, on the other hand … Almost no one would want to travel to Somalia, just as now, and almost no salient of the Somalian cultural failure could afford to travel to Switzerland: great for the Swiss (under the 80/20 rule, 80% of your revenues come from the top 20% of your customers).
- But doesn’t a high price for visas engender a black market in illegal immigration? No. Not if illegal immigrants don’t enjoy the protection of the sovereign’s laws. The only way to get that protection, remember, is to buy it from the sovereign by paying the tonlieu. Without that protection, illegal aliens are vulnerable to enslavement, rape, or kidnapping (we see this sort of thing happening already to illegal aliens in the US). Of course, a good and valuable and lawful nation of the sort that people very much want to get into swiftly executes slavers, rapists, and kidnappers of any sort (by flogging in the public square), and expropriates all their assets. But as illegal aliens, their victims have no recourse. They can expect no benefit or recompense from the sovereign offices, or any tort compensation from the civil courts. They can expect only immediate deportation, and – because they are themselves criminals – immediate expropriation of all their assets within the sovereign domain.
- Note also that protection of the sovereign’s laws includes access to the health and welfare benefits provided to his subjects, such as they might be, and on the same terms as those under which such benefits are available to those subjects. Pay the British tonlieu, and you have access to the NHS – or whatever eventually replaces it – just as if you were a British subject. Neglect to pay it, and you are on your own.
- All things considered, then, it is far cheaper for a prospective illegal immigrant to a good country either to pay the stinking tonlieu, or else stay home. Even if human smugglers charge a fee a bit lower than the tonlieu, the risks of illegal immigration, not just from the sovereign authorities, but from criminals – especially of the sort who engage in human smuggling – far outweighs the cost of legal entry via the tonlieu.
- Different sorts of visas – as for students, tourists, visiting scholars, or guest workers – can be differently priced. Visas that allow foreigners to work, e.g., can be more expensive than those issued to tourists, who after all come only to spend money, and do not reduce wages to the domestic labor force. Likewise student visas can be more costly than tourist visas, because students take a place that would otherwise have been available to domestic students, and export the capital investment in the knowledge and skills they acquire at university, decreasing the domestic supply of that knowledge and those skills. How much more? As much more as can be, without decreasing sovereign revenues on sales of work visas.
- Visas are nowise a path to citizenship. They are rather a path to denizenship, and then only for a specific period, paid for ex ante. *Aliens all must leave, sooner or later;* or else, apply for citizenship, and pay for it. Citizenship – or, to be more precise, legal subjection, since not all subjects of the sovereign are ipso facto citizens, or a fortiori electors – is a whole ‘nother topic, covered at length in the comments to a different post.
- When labor markets in country are tight because times are good, and the economic good of immigration is therefore great, the tonlieu is bound to be relatively high. When they are loose, and times not so good, it is likely to be relatively low.
That’s really about it. Very simple, in principle. Note that there is no reason any nation might not impose other criteria than ability to pay the tonlieu. And the tonlieu could be priced differently for different types of entrants. No country would want to admit a notorious pedophile or a Somalian warlord, for example, no matter how much he might be able to pay for his visa. Indeed, perhaps a certain country might not want any Somalians at all (not to pick on Somalians, of course; it’s just a thought experiment; and after all, Somalia might not want any Swedish Americans inbound, for that matter). And no country would need to admit anyone it didn’t like, any more than a baker must allow anyone at all into his store, at any and all times – or than Israel must allow anyone at all to immigrate. So: having met all the *other* criteria for admission to a country, whatever they might be, and however difficult it might be to meet them, an immigrant would then have to pay the tonlieu to get in. That’s all.
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So you want our country to be like a rich man who locks the doors of his mansion against the sight of the poor men at the door, whose boils are licked by the dogs and who would be happy with the scraps from our table? When we are all in Hell for our hatred of the poor, I will point them out to you. They will be in the bosom of Abraham, and they will not be able to ease our suffering a whit.
May the Lord have mercy on us.
Don’t be silly. There are other ways to help the poor man at the gates than to destroy the house.
I said nothing to suggest that we should not help the poor. That’s a totally different question.
See, this is one of the endemic problems with policy makers, and people who think about policy: they too often confuse policy objectives, with the result that none of those objectives are properly met. E.g., they try to design a tax code or an immigration policy that is also a welfare benefit policy aimed at aiding the poor. It’s like trying to design a knife that also works as a fork. Silly. Design a good knife, *and then* design a good fork. Devise a tax policy that optimizes sovereign revenue without deforming economic decisions of your subjects, *and then* set about deciding how you shall use the resulting revenues to help the poor. Devise an immigration policy that optimizes your work force without deforming your culture or harming your people, *and then* set about deciding how you shall use the revenues generated by the resultant prosperity to ameliorate the plight of the poor in other countries.
As for your preaching: physician, heal thyself. How many beggars are living in your house right now?
It is far from clear that immigration destroys anything.
Your whole plan knowingly and intentionally discriminates against poor immigrants in favor of richer ones. That is its whole point: you want to grant entry only to the ‘deserving’.
I don’t pretend to know about policy, but it seems to me that the United States is already prosperous, and so trying to ‘optimize the workforce’ begins to seem greedy. And refusing to help others until such time as this optimization is complete seems miserly.
As members of apostolic traditions, we should agree that that which has been established by men is less important than that which has been established by God. So I try not to get too worked up about how great Western Culture and Tradition is. In God’s eyes, it probably isn’t all that great anyway, nor ever was. Fix your eyes on the kingdom of heaven rather than the kingdoms of the earth. I have only begun to attempt this, and it is not easy.
And no, no beggars live with me in my home. But I am not the United States, nor is the US a good analogy for my household; I am not richer than my neighbors. And I know in my heart that the absence of the needy from my home is a failure on my part, and every time I close my eyes to the beggars on the street I take one step closer to the pit. I cannot wish for my country to follow my bad example.
Your writing suggests a belief that excluding the poor at our borders and ignoring their plight is right and just, and I gave in to my passion and replied in anger. I apologize for the tone of my comment, but I don’t regret the substance of my appeal to your Christian values. We must not forget the poor, and for us as Christians there really should be no ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ poor. It is up to God alone to decide who deserves what. It is up to us to give to others.
The suggestion is yours. Own it. I think you should take a hard look at your own presuppositions, that led to your mistaken impression that my writing suggests that I believe ignoring the plight of the poor is right and just. I believe no such thing, I wrote no such thing, and nothing I wrote suggests any such thing. The suggestion arose from within you.
To point out that you are not richer than your neighbours is an exercise in misdirection. You are vastly wealthier than millions of people who would very much like to move into your house with you. That is the salient fact. Millions of them are already in the US. Some are probably living in your town. Why are none of them yet living with you?
The answer is obvious. If they were to live with you, you and your household would suffer harm. To invite those poor people into your house would expose your household to terrible risks. You know this perfectly well.
There are other, and better, ways to help the poor than to let them into your house by the hundreds – a method that would destroy your house and threaten your family, to whom your first duty of charity is owed – and delete thenceforth your capacity to help the poor.
The nation differs from your household in scale, but is subject to the same factors. Roughly 1/3 the population of Earth would like to live in the US. If 5% of them got their wish, there would no longer be a US.
The US is indeed prosperous. The more prosperous it gets, the more can it help the poor. No other nation has done as much as the US to help the poor of other countries. The best way to help them is to try to engender in them, in their own countries, the same ethics and methods that have led to the prosperity and power of the West. That way, their countries might possibly be lifted out of poverty, and themselves generate fewer and fewer poor people.
There is however no guarantee that such efforts can succeed. Cultures are conservative. They do not want to change, unless they have to. They generally find that they must change only at that point where the alternative is catastrophe.
Notwithstanding that, cultures have been changing, slowly, under the pressure of international trade, and global poverty has been decreasing steadily since WWII, as more and more of the planet has been run more and more along Western lines.
We should not import poverty and so degrade prosperity where it already flourishes, but rather export prosperity and so degrade poverty where it still flourishes.
Let’s do a gedanken experiment. You have two options, and only two: either you agree that a moronic serial rapist can live in your house for free, with free food and medical care; or you agree that an educated, intelligent and enterprising fellow with a good job and no criminal record can do so. What is your choice?
Like it or not, human society cannot proceed in orderly fashion – i.e., cannot continue a society in the first place – except in virtue of constant acts of discrimination between persons. All of us engage in such discrimination hundreds of times each day, without even noticing we have done so. It is by just such discrimination that you have not allowed anyone who wants to do so to sleep in your house with your wife or daughter, and take a share of your children’s food, and raid your closet for clothing and your bank account for money.
Making things optimal is just common sense. Abandon it, and you ruin your chances of survival. The alternative to making things better is making them worse. That’s a stupid move.
I didn’t say that we should wait until optimization of the work force is complete before we start helping others. I said we should not confuse the policy objectives of optimizing immigration policy and optimizing helping the poor. My use of “and then” might have confused you, though. The only reason I used it was that the post was about immigration policy, and not about helping the poor. So naturally I took the policy topic under discussion to be, first, immigration policy, followed in order of discussion (although not therefore, necessarily, in act) by all others. Obviously it doesn’t matter a whit whether you design the knife before the fork, or vice versa. The main thing is to avoid trying to design a knife that is a fork.
Our welfare policies are just as great a disaster as our immigration policies. But one thing at a time.
Red catholicism visits the Orthosphere. This sort of nonsense (abundant at Jesuit universities) turned me away from the faith in my late teens.
That’s an interesting idea, but I’m worried about it. Not about you, about the idea. Here’s what I’m worried about; help me out here: The gospels teach us to be kind to and help the poor. How do you, a Christian, reconcile this with your suggested immigration policy, which favors the rich instead?
I’ve already explained, but I’ll try again. Immigration policy is one thing, and helping the poor is quite another. It is foolish to conflate the two. It is simply not true that everything we do must help the poor. Matthew 26:6-13. It is only what we do to help the poor that must help the poor.
You have a duty to your family, and you have a duty to the poor. They are both duties of charity, but *they are not the same duty.* It’s not proper to help the poor in such a way that your family is hurt. It would be wrong for you to invite 1,000 poor to live in your house gratis and sleep with your children. That would hurt your children, and it wouldn’t help the poor as efficaciously as other things you might do that would keep your children safe.
Set up your immigration policy so that it works properly as such – *and not as a social welfare policy.* Set up your social welfare policy so that it works properly as such – *and not as an immigration policy.*
Yes, thank you; it is clearer now. And I do see that you expressed the same idea before, but it was surrounded by other thoughts that obscured it.
I still disagree, however. Many immigrants are poor as well as foreign. I am not conflating two issues; I am focusing on their intersection. Deporting folk who cannot pay to stay here, sending them back to the poverty and violence they have fled, is harming them, not merely refraining from helping them in the interest of another pressing concern. The scripture you cite is an admonition not to use charity as an excuse to heap shame upon another person or to avoid giving due honor to God. It is not a permission slip to ignore the poor whenever you feel like it. Unless you wish to say that deporting the poor among immigrants so that you may consort only with their richer countrymen and use those rich foreigners’ wealth to fill the sovereign’s coffers is as worthy a goal as anointing the body of Christ in preparation for His death and resurrection, perhaps it is better not to use Matthew 26:6-13 to support your proposed policy.
Let me direct you to another place in the Gospel of Matthew; chapter 10, verses 34-39:
This is, of course, Jesus speaking to His disciples. I don’t see how anyone could read the above and still believe He cared for order and peace over obedience to Him. And since obedience to Him requires kindness to others—especially to those we’d rather not be kind to—I just can’t see how it’s okay to accept only the immigrants we like and not the ones we don’t. That goes double for a plan that deports people because they are poor (Matthew 25:31-46).
I also don’t believe immigration is as destructive as you say. The main problems with American society are baked in, written into the Constitution.
There is a difference between helping the poor and letting them into your house by the dozen (if you can’t see how letting a dozen people of any sort into your house to live would ruin it, I can’t help you to see it). All I am saying is that immigration policy is no more an effective way to help the poor of other nations than is the building of dams, bridges and highways. If you want to build a dam, don’t make helping the poor a design criterion. That would be idiotic. You’d end up with a rotten dam. Likewise, if you want a good immigration policy, don’t make helping the poor a design criterion. You’ll end up with a lousy immigration policy.
I can’t understand why this is so hard for you to see.
Well, actually, I suppose that’s not true. We see the same thing at work all the time in human affairs. Especially in the pinko modern West.
We invade Iraq, not to destroy the enemy utterly and then go home, but also to build a nation. That nation ends up our enemy. Big surprise.
Or a corporation weakens its commitment to making great products for its customers by diverting substantial resources into unrelated things like diversity and PC or to pillage by corporate raiders. It ends up destroying itself. Big surprise.
So in your inability to see a way not to conflate radically different design objectives, you are just normal. Sigh.
Focus on one thing at a time and do it right. Then move on to the next thing and do it right, too. That’s all. Honestly, this is just so basic. Engineers and designers get this. So do most economists. Doors make lousy windows, and vice versa. Forks make lousy spoons, and vice versa.
Isn’t this just *obvious*?
Nowhere in the Gospels are we admonished to be stupid. On the contrary. Matthew 25:14-30.
I don’t understand why you keep likening immigration to letting people into one’s house “by the hundred”. All of the people in the entire world do not outnumber inborn Americans by that much. And not everyone is trying to come here, so the immigrants are significantly outnumbered. That is the sticking point, not the fact that a hundred people cannot fit, let alone live, in my home. I agree that that would be a disaster; I disagree that it describes the situation.
What if the dam you are building will flood a valley full of poor people’s houses? Would you still consider the issues entirely separate? I’m not saying you must hire only paupers and hobos to design and build the dam, I’m saying don’t destroy anyone’s livelihood or home thoughtlessly, and certainly don’t do it deliberately.
I agree that political correctness is dumb, and that the war in Iraq was bad, although I guess there will be deep disagreement between us about details.
No matter how obvious your position seems to you, I remain unconvinced, so you must either try harder or consider that you might be the one missing something important. Or write me off as a lost cause, I suppose.
Lastly, you may be right about the Gospels, but St. Paul says a bunch in the first couple chapters of 1 Corinthians about how God’s wisdom seems foolish to men. Try 1:18 on for size, and perhaps 2:14. Also see this Wikipedia article for a rundown of the history of Foolishness for Christ.
A third of people outside the West would like to live in the West. Do the math. By my reckoning, that would be 2 Third World immigrants for every person now resident in the West. So, sure, it wouldn’t be as if hundreds or dozens of immigrants came to live in your house. But your family would be outnumbered, 2 to 1. It wouldn’t be your house anymore. Likewise, if all the Third World people who want to do so did in fact come to the West, it would become just like the places they came from, and its power to help them would vanish. So would the West; so would the people of the West.
The way to help the poor of the Third World is not to make the First World like the Third World by inviting the Third World and its ways into the First, but rather for the First World to do what we can to raise the Third World in situ. To do otherwise is simply to ensure a steadily increasing supply of Third World people trying to get into the First World.
The improvement of the Third World is already happening. The Third World is far better off than it was 30 years ago.
We should not import problems. We should export solutions. Otherwise, the Good Samaritan will be himself a pauper, and unable to assuage the injuries of the man at the side of the road.
Paul was preaching to a pagan world that knew nothing of helping the poor. That sort of thing was not even on the pagan radar. To the wider first century world, charity was foolish.
Certainly your dam must take account of the lands that the reservoir will flood. That’s part of any proper project cost accounting. The fact that the dam is not going to solve the problems of Bangladesh or Somalia is *not* a part of its proper cost accounting. After all, there are an infinite number of problems to solve. Why has the dam not solved the problem of your hangnail? Because *that’s not what dams do.* The dam does not need to – indeed, it *should not* – try to solve the problems of Bangladesh. It *can’t.* That’s a job for other projects.
Likewise, our immigration policy *can’t* solve the problem of Third World poverty.
Honestly, this is so simple. I’m flabbergasted that you don’t get it.
The US with its dams is not impoverishing Bangladesh. On the contrary. Contrary to the muddled zero sum thinking that so pervades the Left, prosperity here does not entail poverty there. Again, on the contrary: prosperity anywhere increases prosperity everywhere, ceteris paribus.
Again, I’m not suggesting that we should not help the poor. All I’m saying is that immigration policy is the wrong tool for the job.
Ah, finally I see more sense than cruelty in what you say.
I don’t think we’re allowed to dismiss teachings in the Bible just because we are not their immediate intended audience. St. Paul may have been talking to different people from us and in a different context from ours, but so was Moses, and most people agree that the Ten Commandments still apply.
I understand now that you are talking mostly about potential immigrants from all around the world, most of whom are still in their countries of birth. I have been thinking about the refugees and other poor immigrants who are already here, on our doorstep as it were. Since they are already here, they are our neighbors, and it is our duty to help them. But Bangladesh is not our doorstep, so its residents aren’t our neighbors. They do not live in the valley your dam will flood. I don’t believe I’ve ever said anything about “solving Third World poverty” using immigration policy, and I can’t imagine how you got the idea that that is my goal. I’m saying that once they are here, it is wrong to worsen their situation by charging them money just to be here or else sending them back to their own countries worse off than when they left.
Just to be clear, I’m not against discrimination in itself (or, if you prefer, per se); I’m against discrimination against our poorer neighbors. That means people nearby who are poor. Not every poor person on earth, not everybody nearby. If we can also help the poor farther away, so much the better, but that is not part of my original objection.
That objection still stands. Among immigrants, your policy harms most that group (the poor) that Christ admonished us to harm least. It is therefore anti-Christian and opposed to the stated values of this site.
An immigration policy is by definition concerned not so much with people already in country licitly, but rather with those who are not, but would like to be. It should be designed to install an incentive structure for them that will discourage them from trying to immigrate if their chances of success are poor. The original post suggested that the sovereign does best, and does best for his own people, when he sets immigration policy such that only the best most valuable immigrants try to immigrate.
Right now, by contrast, our de facto immigration policy is that anyone who can get in at all is in for good, for the most part. So billions have the incentive to try, and millions do try. They then end up on our doorstep or within it. You are correct that at that point we are responsible to take care of them, at least so long as they remain with us; every culture worth a damn has enjoined strict duties of kindness to strangers. We are *not* at that point responsible to let them stay indefinitely. The injunction to show kindness to strangers never requires making them permanent partners in and owners of the homestead, and members of the household, and potential heirs. That sort of welcome is entirely optional.
There is a reason that Jacob had to work for 14 years – for his own uncle! – to have a shot at Rachel.
Whatever changes are made to immigration policy at time t, those already in country at t are grandfathered under the regulations in force before t. That’s how civilized lawful societies work. Immigrants already in country should be treated lawfully under the policy in force de jure at the time of their immigration.
If we started to do just that, rigorously, the flow of immigrants would diminish greatly. Because why? Because, even though we treated them humanely while they were in our custody – i.e., while we were their custodians – we’d end up sending almost all of them back home, pretty quickly. Word would spread in their home countries that it is almost impossible to get in to the USA, and people would stop thinking of trying.
If we had a global system of optimal tonlieux – something that would fall into place pretty quickly, once a single prosperous nation had adopted the policy, if only due to tit for tat – almost no one would think of emigrating to any other country. This, because the true cost of doing so would have been made explicitly clear to them, via the price – the tonlieu – they could expect to pay for a visa.
The bottom line is that access to the farm is valuable property. If you give away the right to live on your farm, pretty soon you won’t own a farm. Other people will own it. You’ll have priced it to sell, for less than a mess of pottage; and it will have been bought and paid for, in cold hard nothing. This notion is formally enshrined in law already. If you don’t post “No Trespassing” signs at the perimeter of your property, a trespasser may rightfully presume that, under law, his trespass is OK with you; that he has your implicit permission to pass – i.e., your visa. Keep this up, and your whole parcel might then eventually come to be treated under local law as a public right of way.
In a world governed by conservation laws, no good is free; all goods must be paid for, by somebody or other. When access to a country is free to the immigrant, those who suffer the cost of that entry are those already in country. They lose their farms, bit by bit.
I didn’t mean to dismiss Paul’s teachings – God forbid – but to put them in context. God’s wisdom seems foolishness to men still operating from the pagan perspective. To Christians, it makes perfect sense. As it does to me. God’s wisdom is not foolishness in fact, but true wisdom. But, NB: God’s wisdom does not adjure us all to beggar ourselves absolutely, as an open door immigration policy would, but rather to succor the poor. There is a difference.
You have to keep the vinyard in business if it is going to do anybody any good at all.
This is obviously no new issue in ecclesiastical history. Saint Clement of Alexandria and the Franciscans wrestled with it, hard. The common conclusion of all such disputations over the centuries has been that it is OK for laymen, and indeed religious institutions, to own property, provided they do not fall into idolatry of Mammon; that only the religious may properly be vowed to personal poverty; and that such poverty must be undertaken *voluntarily.* Indeed, it must be *discouraged.* It must be *really hard* to earn the option to take religious vows.
And even voluntary religious poverty is not without cost: II Thessalonians 3:10. Ora, sure, no problem; but, labora, or hit the road.
Excursus: one of the reasons the monastics resented the peripatetic friars is that it seemed to them that the friars had hit the road, rather than buckle down and get to the weeding …
Finally, to point out yet another important distinction: voluntary religious poverty ≠ involuntary national poverty.
Charity towards the poor and needy does not mean a lack of charity towards our house (country/kingdom) A balkanised future is uncharitable towards our posterity and should be avoided.
The charitable rich man who locks his doors preserves his prosperity for his posterity and preserves the means by which he can help the poor. If he is uncharitable, then that is another issue. But being charitable does not mean being retarded.
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