On Usury, 'Educating the Simple Child' -- Richard Eskow

There’s nothing I love more than a sanctimonious fool and non-believer who preaches the literal Gospel not only to other non-believers, but also to those who follow Jesus Christ. It is especially enjoyable when this same Prophet-Jester also fumbles Aristotle in his desperate attempt to elevate his own ego. This is exactly the kind of dunderhead that make reading the Huffington Post so occasionally enjoyable. It really is journalism at its best.

Doofus Major du Jour, Richard “RJ” Eskow babbles on about usury and the taking of interest, going so far as to call payday lenders “evil.” Yes, he actually has placed them in the category of Satan’s minions, without ever realizing that ignorance itself is, alas, a sin. So I must do what we Jews at Passover call “educating the simple child."

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Mr. Eskow loves throwing around the word “usury,” yet I doubt he would have much of a rebuttal when actually confronted with both the secular and spiritual definitions of the word. Therefore, having debunked his invocation of Ezekiel, I also suspect that Mr. Eskow shall make a stone of his heart and refuse to actually consider that he might be wrong. So we’ll add “arrogance” to the list of sins he’ll owe penance on (for those keeping track).

Nor would Mr. Eskow be likely to admit that the “cycle of debt” myth concerning payday loans is exactly that – a myth not unlike many of the stories in the Bible he is so quick to throw in the faces of his readers. If he actually went to another Bible – that being the required annual SEC filings by public payday loan companies -- he would find that 94% of loans are actually paid off on time. I’ll just tally this one up as “willful ignorance,” since he didn’t actually want to do any research that might counter his feeble case. And that is St. Thomas Aquinas I linked to, who I think is a little more on the ball with the whole Biblical interpretation thing than Mr. Eskow is.

Now, as if Mr. Eskow’s sins aren’t already piling up, he commits the all-too-often sinful atrocity many liberals insist that they do not engage in – that of judgment. He actually writes:
But at what point does a moral society make the reasoned assessment that [Checksmart CEO Allan] Jones and others in his business are objectively bad human beings?

Well, Mr. Eskow, let’s see. In Matthew 7:2, Jesus says “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I would venture to say that by judging Mr. Jones to be a bad human being, as well as anyone who facilitates the use of payday loans, I should think that the 150,000 people you want to put out of work by banning payday loans are judging you to be a blithering idiot, job assassin, and partially responsible for the loss of their livelihood. After all, since guilt by association is how Mr. Eskow judges others, he should be judged the same. Now, will he be providing unemployment benefits to all these folks? I think not.

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Still, Mr. Eskow really insists that both Jesus and Aristotle support his case, so perhaps we should find forgiveness in our own hearts. It shouldn’t be so hard to see if Mr. Eskow has it right. All it takes is not needing to be willfully ignorant, and have even the slightest bit of education in philosophy and theology. Oh, and some research skills that most journalists should be capable of.

Mr. Eskow quotes one of the most misinterpreted portions of the New Testament. This would be John 2:13-16, which Mr. Eskow bumbles by interpreting it thusly, “the New Testament offers a clear answer when it comes to usurious lenders. John 2:13-16 is pretty specific: He overturns their tables and drives them (along with sellers of ritual doves) from the Temple.”

Alas, more willful ignorance, for it doesn’t take crack journalistic research to learn that Mr. Eskow has completely butchered both the text and the interpretation of these verses. The moneychangers were not lenders, but currency-exchangers. Non-Hebrew travelers needed to exchange their currency into the one used locally. Also being sold here were cattle, sheep and doves for sacrificial purposes. Jesus tossed them out because the Temple was to be a place of worship, and not of business.

Uh…nothing about usurious lenders, Mr. Eskow. Prepare to repent.

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As for Aristotle – well, you can see what’s coming. Mr. Eskow quotes Aristotle, "The most hated sort (of business), and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it." Unfortunately, Mr. Eskow really makes a great case for himself as a simpleton, for what he just quoted is in fact the very definition of interest. Yes, Aristotle actually equated interest with usury, proving that just because an ancient philosopher says something doesn’t make it true.

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In point of fact, the Scholastics rebuked Aristotle by identifying specific instances in which taking interest was not forbidden – in cases where the lender was actually taking some risk which, gasp, payday lenders do (and the 6% default rate justifies the price charged).

Of course, all this circles back to the most important issue, one that Mr. Eskow himself raised, which I repeat here. “At what point does a moral society make the reasoned assessment that certain people are objectively bad human beings?” Given that Mr. Eskow committed multiple sins in his moronic screed, and has not even realized that banning payday lenders would hurt the very people he mistakenly believes he is helping, I know a lot of people who would judge him a bad human being.

But I’m not one of them. I recognize that human beings are inherently flawed. They are willfully ignorant, arrogant, stupid, vain, petty, judgmental, simple, and can be complete asses from time to time. I accept all of that. I forgive them their trespass.

But admitting when you’re wrong? Ah! Now that elevates one that much closer to God, for He is pretty impressed by humility.

And admitting that one has no talent for journalism and fact-checking, in this day of the Citizen Journalist? Hope springs eternal.

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