From my Facebook page.
“Here Augustine points to the social nature of desire, the origination of desire from both inside and outside the individual self. Augustine also points to the unreality of his desire. The object of his desire, because it is not oriented to the true end of human life, is in reality a nothing. His desire is not endowed with reality simply because he experiences it and chooses on the basis of it.”–Being Consumed: Economics And Christian Desire by William T. Cavanaugh
Cavanaugh is placing economics within the Augustinian tradition. The free market economics of say, Milton Friedman is not concerned with where this desire comes from nor whether they can be objectively oriented towards desirable ends. But should we not be concerned about these things? If desire is partially informed by something external to ourselves then should we not be concerned about those influences? And if desire is not oriented to the true end of life (God) then is it endowed with reality?
In the comments section I put:
Cavanaugh later on says that conventional thinking about the market (free) is that individuals are free to choose their own ends based on nothing more than their wants (what I think he earlier calls a “wasteland” and something economists are not concerned with). But he questions this by arguing that freedom is based not on the autonomy of the will but on the end to which the will is moved. Powerful stuff.
For Augustine the most important question was not whether the will was moved via external forces or internally but to what end the will was moved.