Barren Metal, a Book Review


Having read E. Michael Jones’ work Libido Dominandi, where he exposes how global elites have used sexual “liberation” as a tool for political enslavement, a brilliant book, I was looking forward to reading Barren Metal which is a history of usury.  Sadly I was disappointed. This work is inferior to Libido Dominandi. I will first discuss the positive elements I found in the book and conclude with where I thought it failed.

The basic premise of the Barren Metal is that usury is the extraction of surplus value from the laborer and that capitalism is state sponsored usury. Jones here is a bit confusing as he distinguishes between two kinds of capitalism (1) free-enterprise and entrepreneurship  and (2) state sponsored usury. When most people of think of capitalism, at least on the political right, they think of definition one. What he calls state sponsored usury I really don’t think is capitalism. Obviously we have state sponsored usury in the ancient world under Greece and Rome and yet nothing like the dynamic markets of modern capitalism was seen.

This over simplification mars the book. Jones has a penchant for reductionist thinking; capitalism is usury, Protestantism is a looting operation of the Catholic Church, etc.

Jones begins his work by challenging the Weberian thesis that capitalism arose not out of Protestantism, but out of Catholic Renaissance Italy. He then spends the better part of 1000 pages blaming Protestantism for capitalism and only at the end of the book does he return to his original position. This kind of confusing and contradictory view is a major weakness of the book.

Prior to the Reformation/Renassiance, the Catholic church in the Benedictine Order valued labor over alchemy/usury in producing wealth. Together with the civil arm of the Holy Roman Empire, the German-Catholic order of anti-usury pro-labor was maintained. From here on out the basic narrative of the book is that the rise of pagan thought in the renaissance in Catholic Italy coupled with the great Schism brought on by Protestantism destroyed the Church’s ‘policy power’ to enforce laws against usury. For Jones the Protestant looting of Church property in England, in order to get the initial startup capital for economic development, was the original sin of capitalism. He argues that the rise of liberalism and its grounding of morals in human sentiments was the perfect justification for the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist elite. This breach made by English capitalism and the Reformation was compounded by Napoleon and his emancipation of the Jews. The German rationalists were the one bright spot in this period. From Kant to Hegel the Germans developed a new economic outlook based on the national economy rather than pure individual interest. This view of economics he sees carried into the Catholic social teaching of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This German-Catholic fusion is his alternative to Jewish capitalism.  The Jews and the English Protestants conspired to spread capitalism, ergo usury, throughout the world. He ends his work by discussing the implications of usury in the great 2008 economic crisis.

Jone’s critique of Empiricism is decidedly excellent. His account of the Jews bears repeating. He argues that the Jews, a diasporic people, treated gentiles as aliens and that is why they extracted usury from them. When capitalism internalized this Jewish practice it made each individual an alien to the other, destroying social cohesion. He argues that capitalism and communism are two sides of the same Jewish coin. He argues that Marx rendered the working class as a rootless cosmopolitan force, just like the Jews. The Marxist solution of abolishing property was worse than the problem of usury.

Jones’ argument is hampered by his clear ignorance of the Reformation. He argues that the Anabaptists were Lutherans, and even states later in the work that they invaded churches and smashed images. With the noticeable exception of Munster the Anabaptists were pacifists and such a bizarre falsehood seriously damages Jones’ credibility on this issue. His monomania with Protestantism is also flawed since Protestant Scandinavia and Germany did not develop the radical individualistic capitalism he condemns, ergo something other than Protestantism was the driving cause, thereby discrediting his narrative.

Jones acts as if the Catholic church would have had an alternative to Capitalism; he is quite favorable of the Jesuit Experiment in Quebec and Paraguay. Yet he never demonstrates that there was a viable Catholic alternative. The Catholic kingdoms of Portugal, Spain, France, and Austria were all as debt and usury ridden as the England he so condemns. The fact is that usury ran apace in Catholic as well as Protestant nations.

His anti-Protestant monomania is further compound by his monomaniacal fixation on Henry VIII’s nationalization of the monasteries. This, for Jones, is the original sin of capitalism; the confiscation of a thousand years of accumulated value and his justification for reducing the Reformation to merely a looting scheme. This of course is absurd. I could just as easily say the Reformation was the Roman Catholic chickens coming home to roost. During the 4th century the Catholics running the Roman Empire destroyed Pagan images and confiscated pagan temples, not unlike what Henry VIII would do 1100 years later. Given that the Catholic church was built on the accumulation of a 1000 years of classical labor it was nothing more than a looting operation. This double standard is further highlighted when he complains that English pirates, such as Sir Francis Drake, were raiding Spanish galleons, without even so much as a mention of the massive looting of Mexico and Peru, probably one of the greatest looting operations in history and far grander than Henry VIII’s. We see that in the 4th and 16th centuries the Catholic church was built on loot and plunder of an unimaginable scale, but it would be absurd to conclude from that the Catholic Church was merely a looting operation of pagan goods, as Jones implies with the Reformation.

In short Barren Metal is a deeply flawed though expansive work that leaves much to be desired.

10 thoughts on “Barren Metal, a Book Review”

  1. One of the most respected English Reformation historians of the 19th century, William Cobbett, of whom G.K. Chesterton wrote a biography, said essentially the same thing about the looting of the monasteries. I wouldn’t be so quick to call it “absurd”. (unless, of course. you’re a Protestant – in that case, your disagreements would coincide perfectly with your tainted beliefs.)

  2. Christ put an end to Jewish ethno-centric robbery (the word hebrew means robbers) and then, later, 4th century Christianity put an end to Roman pillaging (Jones calls it “pagan economics” … which had no regard for labor except slave labor). Yes, there was a conversion of the ill-gotten Roman gains to public use under the oversight, if not the stewardship, of the Bishop (or deacons). But quickly, c. 480, St. Benedict gave a Christlike-example of a)communal agriculture, b)storing of wealth for public good, and c)how rootless men (who would have been the pillagers of Roman days) should live.

    Jones’ description of the Reformation was, yes, as looting. As human-realists, surely we on the altright can never discount the draw of “religious system B” which makes you rich over “religious system A” which doesn’t. But the key that got capitalism going was I believe (if I understand Jones) that a system needed to be developed so that the new surplus wealth of the converted church lands could be realized. Having just stolen consecrated land, such “system” was obviously not going to be under the moral law. So the justification was invented that would enshrine the same human will that confiscated the lands in the first place (Henry VIII) as the summum bonum of “economics”. Which went way beyond what even Calvin was prepared to justify, and has become our libertarianism of today. Whatever I have an appetite for doing economically, I can do as long as either the other party agrees or my king commands.

    Whether capitalism means state-sponsored usury … or something else, is of course semantics. But my guess is capitalism has to mean something other than just “free exchange”. Because free exchange was already accepted as a given after the 4th century. Usury has of course existed on a small scale since the beginning of time among bad neighbors. And it popped up in Italy, pre-Reformation, when the church did not have the will to stop it. But it took the state to make a system out of usury. And I think that system is what we refer to generally as “capitalism”. I think Jones makes a plausible case that capitalism has as its root cause, the state. The book has many examples of Kings and princes getting in a bind (for example needing to go to war) and borrowing money. There is immediately not enough money in the economy to repay the loan and thus begins the vicious cycle. New surplus value has to be extracted somehow and labor is the only ready source (since coins do not copulate).

    In addition to providing the initial excuse to confiscate the church lands in the first place, Protestantism had a totally different ecclesiology and hence a different view of the limits of the state, which gave ideological cover to state-sponsored usury.

    Thank you for reviewing the book. Jones’ books end up being popular histories through a particular lens. Libido Dominandi is a romp through modern history from the viewpoint of the id. The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History … the lens speaks for itself. Barren Metal is the same 2000-year history told through the lens of the schemes and subterfuges which “enable” the age-old temptation to have someone else do your labor for you.

  3. I don’t know how someone can review this book without talking about ‘compound interest.’

  4. I wouldn’t be so quick to call the reformation “looting”. (unless, of course. you’re a Catholic or Orthodox- in that case, your disagreements would coincide perfectly with your tainted beliefs.)

  5. Hello

    I have been exploring for a bit for any high-quality articles or blog posts on this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Studying this info So i am satisfied to express that I’ve a very just right uncanny feeling I found out just what I needed. I so much no doubt will make certain to do not overlook this web site and give it a glance on a continuing basis.

    Best Regards

  6. Hi there,

    Thanks for the informative post about online advertising.
    I’ve had great success with Ads Free Post, a website that lets you post ads for free.
    It’s easy to use, lets you upload photos and videos, and is
    a great option for small business owners looking to reach a wider audience.

    Keep up the great work on your blog!

    Best regards,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *