"Wherefore We must interrupt a silence which it would be criminal to prolong, that We may point out...as they really are, men who are badly disguised." Pope St. Pius X, September 8, 1907, Pascendi Dominici Gregis

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Is Libertarianism Catholic?

Libertarianism is contextually correct. The discovery that private property rights and its logical accompaniments are the basic principles of social order, outside theistic considerations, is no small feat. True economics, and by this we mean the Austrian School, actually does much to remind man of his limitations before a system the ultimate workings of which he does not and can never fully understand. Frederich von Hayek most especially couches his economics in terms that remind us no man as a social planner can ever attain sufficient knowledge to plan the economy better than the market, a naturally arising institution based simply on the dictum 'Thou Shall Not Steal' and its corollaries whose functioning accomplishes more than the actions of any one participant. Ludwig von Mises of course drives the dagger straight into the economic errors of Russia, proving logically that a socialist economy cannot calculate and therefore can never out-perform a market economy.

Libertarianism also serves as an antidote to the excess of state-worship that dominates post-Enlightenment philosophy. Catholics should not be underwhelmed to realize one of the key tents of the enemies of the Church, especially Freemasonry as Cardinal Rodriguez of Chile points out, is the abolition of private property. Almost for this reason alone and because the Church always stands against the spirit of the age, should the catholic be endeared to the study of private property. But property rights themselves can be taken to an extreme. We have argued that prosperity for its own sake can undermine the fundamentals that led to the prosperity in the first place.

Libertarianism as its own project, therefore, is not complete. The majority of man is not sufficiently rational to accept and abide by the norms of libertarianism. Only faith can provide a stable basis for the majority of mankind to accept the natural truths delineated in a book like Human Action by Ludwig von Mises.  That is to say, most men cannot wade through such a tome and even if they did, would not sufficiently understand what they had read. However, men can accept on good faith that what is being taught to them is the truth from a higher authority. The libertarian project must be re-integrated with the very social movement it, as Murray Rothbard highlights in his Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, spun off from, namely Thomistic Catholicism.

On the one hand, libertine libertarianism - that is, unconstrainted by a moral order higher than itself - contains the seeds of its own destruction, undermining the very human identity prerequisite to the existence of the market as a self-sustaining order. On the other, Catholicism will have to learn how to thrive in the modern world, and this means accepting modern means of production and reintegrating them with God's fundamental moral order. The only solution is for the market-based private property social order that libertarianism represents to find its home again within a larger Catholic culture so that the excess of materialism to which markets for their own sake naturally lead can be mitigated by a sufficiently militant humility only found through faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.