On February 6, The American Conservative published a piece by Patrick J. Deneen titled “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching.” In it, Deneen outlines the positions of two hostile political camps within American Catholicism: the “liberal” camp and what he calls a more “radical”/illiberal camp. The liberal camp is characterized by its support for free-market capitalism, liberal democracy, a vigorous interventionist foreign policy, and the basic compatibility of the American republic with Catholicism. The radical illiberal camp is virtually the opposite in every respect; it is skeptical of and in my experience quite hostile towards free-market capitalism, contemptuous of liberal democracy, anti-interventionist and views the entire American project as a failed enterprise incompatible with Catholicism.
In my view there ought to be recognition of a third camp: Catholic libertarianism. Of course this immediately lends itself to semantic confusion. After all, some of what Deneen’s “liberals” hold would align with what libertarians hold, and both might lay claim to the descriptor of “classical liberalism.” The important point of dispute between this peculiar lot of liberals and libertarians proper, at least given the specific points raised by Deneen, would be the matter of foreign policy. Catholic libertarians such as Tom Woods and Judge Andrew Napolitano are resolutely opposed not only to American interventionism, but also to the growing domestic security apparatus that poses a threat to individual liberties. Deneen’s liberals, or at least the contemporary names such as Wiegel, Neuhaus, and Novak, may better be described as neo-conservatives. Insofar as the Catholic neo-conservatives share economic views with the libertarians, I will include them as “classical liberals” in the analysis to follow. It may also be argued that Catholic libertarians aligned with the Austrian school of economics and political theory are also quite critical of liberal democracy. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, an Austrian intellectual, has led the way in the libertarian critique of democracy and there is no reason to assume that a classical liberal is necessarily a democratic liberal.
John Zmirak breaks down widespread resistance and dissent among Catholics on the issue of contraception in “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture” for The Catholic Thing. The most salient facts of the situation:
On a grave moral issue where several popes have invoked their full moral authority short of making an infallible declaration, 95 percent of U.S. Catholics (the number is surely higher in most of Europe) have rejected the guidance of Rome. They are not “bad Catholics” so much members of a new, dissenting sect – which happens to occupy most of the seats in most of the churches, and many of the pulpits and bishop’s offices, too.
I’m not sure that I agree that they are not “bad Catholics.” To the extent that they have been poorly catechized, this might be the case. Many of us know from personal experience however that there are plenty of people who say that they are Catholics, understand that Catholics must abide by the dogmatic teachings of the Church, and simply don’t. However they rationalize it is really not important to me.
On the other hand, Zmirak makes a convincing case for extending a tolerant and understanding olive branch to well-meaning dissenters (and that does not include all dissenters, mind you); they’re over 90% of the Church, perhaps over 95%, at least in the developed West. H also makes a good point about conservative/traditionalist circles that, while doctrinally orthodox, suffer from ideological stagnation and social isolation. The 90-95% need those who believe that truth is not optional to speak boldly for it, but not in a way that is alienating or unsympathetic to their concerns.
If, for instance, the problem with contraception is that an otherwise willing Catholic family feels it simply can’t handle the financial burden, then those of us who would have them hold to the teaching of the Church should be devising creative solutions to that problem. Perhaps living as self-contained nuclear families in a mass consumer society is not the way to live as Catholics. Perhaps local, voluntary, and bold projects are needed to unite people who wish to live the faith authentically, to share burdens and responsibilities – something beyond the mere handouts so often advocated by leftists. The pro-life movement has had great success with crisis pregnancy centers and other forms of relief for pregnant women; I see no reason why we can’t take it a step further and devise forms of relief for struggling parents.
If you haven’t heard just yet, there is a new political ideology making headway mostly in the online world: neoreaction. A friend of mine, Nicholas Pell, has given the basic rundown of this movement complete with useful introductory links for Taki’s Magazine. It will be worth your time to familiarize yourselves with this movement, regardless of what you come to think of it or may think already, as I believe it will only grow with time. For those who don’t know, by the way, I’m your local, friendly, fringe political theorist 🙂
Though the neoreactionaries appear to be a diverse group, ranging from your familiar traditional Catholic monarchists to godless futurists and trans-humanists, they are united by one common belief: that democracy has failed. It is this singular belief, in my view, that distinguishes neoreactionaries from conservatives, at least in the United States. Many of the other beliefs I have seen expressed by NRs, such as a strong preference for hierarchy, order, rational discrimination, and things of this nature are acceptable to most conservatives who aren’t, say, Huntsmanites. Of course I distinguish conservative politicians, whose expressed views are subject to public scrutiny, from the average voter.
Hello again TAC! It has been nearly a year since I posted here, and it is good to be back. I have a long one for you this time, but I think you will find it interesting and my hope is that it will contribute to an ongoing discussion about an important topic.
In December of last year John Zmirak, a Catholic author I know and respect, wrote a piece for Aleteia.org titled “Illiberal Catholicism.” In it, Zmirak takes to task a growing tendency among both Catholic traditionalists (bear in mind I consider myself a traditionalist) and various leftists to denigrate liberalism in general and America’s classical liberal heritage in particular. The piece rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, as several hundred Facebook posts I skimmed would attest. There were lengthier responses from some corners of the Catholic blogosphere as well. If I had to offer the thesis statement of the piece, it would be this:
[T]here is something very serious going on in Catholic intellectual and educational circles, which — if it goes on unchecked — will threaten the pro-life cause, the Church’s influence in society, and the safety and freedom of individual Catholics in America. The growth of illiberal Catholicism will strengthen the power of the intolerant secular left, revive (and fully justify) the old anti-Catholicism that long pervaded America, and make Catholics in the United States as laughably marginal as they now are in countries like Spain and France…
From there, Zmirak provides us with an overview of the lack of tolerance in Church history that was bound to rankle traditionalists, as well as an endorsement of political and economic liberty that anti-capitalist traditionalists and leftists could not but despise. He also explicitly identified with “Tea Party” Catholicism – what could be more philistine for the enlightened anti-capitalist crowd, traddie or leftie?
“I have allowed the president to pick his political appointees…But I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution.” — Senator Rand Paul (go here for more quotes)
Update: Senator Ted Cruz reads tweets supporting Rand Paul on the Senate floor.
Rand Paul has been filibustering the nomination of Obama’s pick to head the CIA, John Brennan. He is doing so because of a consistent refusal of Obama, Brennan, Holder and other administration higher-ups to clearly and unambiguously reject policies that violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens, including the right to due process prior to the deprivation of life, liberty or property.
I’ve been skeptical of Rand Paul for some time. I didn’t mind his endorsement of Romney, but I did mind his statements pledging unconditional defense of Israel in the event they are attacked. I don’t think this country should pledge unconditional defense of any country, least of all one with a nuclear arsenal of its own. His position on immigration isn’t quite what I would like either. I want it slowed to crawl and troop deployment on the border. He’s still playing the desperate “do anything to get Latino votes” game, a losing game for the GOP no matter what they propose. But I digress.
At this moment, there is no other prospective candidate for 2016 I would even consider supporting. Though there is still time for another acceptable candidate to emerge, today’s filibuster earns him major points in my book. It may be a largely symbolic gesture, but it is a necessary one. It lets the people of this country know that those of us who still value the Bill of Rights and view those rights as sacrosanct have an advocate at the higher levels of government. The value of this can’t be overstated.
I wish him all the best and my prayers are with him.
Oh, and read my latest post at Catholic Stand 🙂
Author: John Horvat II
Publisher: York Press
Publication Date: January 2013
For my first TAC book review, I will be looking at a book that is being seriously promoted by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), Return To Order (RTO) by John Horvat II. I was somewhat familiar with the perspective of TFP prior to reading the book, having attended one of their conferences and read some of their basic literature. Horvat acknowledges his indebtedness to Dr. Plínio Corrêa de Oliveira, TFPs founder and primary theoretician who developed a historical narrative of the rise and fall of Christendom in the grand style I have always enjoyed and appreciated. Whereas Oliveira’s work, or at least what I have read of it, was broadly focused, Horvat’s analysis is specifically focused on the United States.
The premise of Part I of RTO is that the cultural and economic crisis of the United States is rooted in a spiritual disorder that the author identifies as “frenetic intemperance”, a willful and energetic disregard for limitation and restraint in virtually all areas of life. Unlike many cultural and economic critics, Horvat does not blame “capitalism” for the development and proliferation of this spiritual disorder. Indeed, Part II of the book asserts that the technological progress and prosperity that capitalism has bestowed upon civilization could have been – and should have been – pursued within the cultural context of Christendom. There is no necessary connection between material progress and spiritual decay.
Horvat is firm in his rejection of socialism as a solution to cultural and economic disorder. Though he puts forward an idealistic view of the (capital S) State that I don’t think will ever be recovered, he does distinguish this ideal from the really-existing state, which is managed and staffed by people who loathe the remnants of Christendom and work ceaselessly to purge them from the society they are building.
A Facebook friend brought my attention to the tug of war taking place over the legacy of Dorothy Day in recent months between pro and anti-capitalists. The Catholic Worker has criticized both the NY Times and Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute on Day-related matters. Liberals can’t claim her, so it is said, because she was anti-abortion and loyal to Church teaching, obviously never having gone the way of radical disobedient feminism. But conservatives and libertarians can’t claim her either because she rejected capitalism.
Or did she? As best I can tell, she neither practiced it or preached it as a way of life. And yet she did say the following:
We believe that social security legislation, now balled as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion…
Of course, Pope Pius XI said that, when such a crisis came about, in unemployment, fire, flood, earthquake, etc., the state had to enter in and help.
But we in our generation have more and more come to consider the state as bountiful Uncle Sam.
If you don’t believe in “force and compulsion”, you believe – by logical necessity – that capitalism is at least permissible. At least capitalism as Fr. Sirico, Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard would define it, which is nothing more than private property + free exchange of goods and services. No capitalist along these lines, moreover, could or likely would raise any objection to voluntary collectivist projects such as workers cooperatives or agricultural communes. Voluntary Distributism, which Day supported in her writings, is capitalism.
I’ve been seeing it all over Facebook and some of the websites I frequent: an abortionist has killed another woman. The abortionist: LeRoy Carhart, a typically careless, deceptive, and incompetent child-killer. The woman: Jennifer Morbelli, who was seeking an abortion at 33 weeks. That’s the ninth month of pregnancy. The child: existed. And had a name, evidently, which was Madison Leigh.
I would have to be a heartless, emotionless robot to fail to understand why so many people are identifying Ms. Morbelli as “the victim” of Carhart. It seems rather obviously so, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t. It simply isn’t.
There is a point at which one’s rhetorical approach can become self-defeating and absurd. I don’t know why exactly Morbelli was seeking an abortion, but chances are it wasn’t to save her life – not that it would become acceptable in this case, but it would at least become more understandable. Speculation I have seen is that she was seeking a late-term abortion for a typical reason such as defects or deformities in the child.
In case you aren’t familiar with the procedure, a late-term or partial-birth abortion typically involves delivering a baby almost entirely save for the head, jamming a pair of scissors into the back of its neck, and sucking its brains out through a hose. So there is no doubt in my mind who the real victim was here.
Hello TAC. I haven’t been posting here as often as I once was since a) I wanted to get a new blog up and running and b) I am also going to be writing for Catholic Stand, and my first piece is appearing tomorrow.
My new blog is called “Liberty & Dignity.” It is not an explicitly Catholic blog, but it is devoted to a natural law/rights version of libertarianism called “paleo-libertarianism.” I distinguish paleo-libertarianism from other kinds of libertarianism in the following way: the paleo brand explicitly recognizes that liberty is a historical and cultural product as much as it is an abstract ideal, that it requires certain institutional prerequisites and supports, and that taken out of its proper context – like anything else – it can self-destruct. It is close to but not identical with paleo-conservatism.
My first article for Catholic Stand will explain how I believe all of this as a Catholic.
Now, onto the Ron Paul business. Obviously I don’t agree with many of the comments left on Paul Zummo’s post about Ron Paul being an inherently malicious person. At the same time, I found his comments to be wildly inappropriate and politically destructive, much like Todd Akin’s rape comments. His subsequent statements on his Facebook page really didn’t improve the situation either.
I am not too happy with his son either, for much different reasons, but you can read my blog to learn more about that.
Here at TAC and Catholic Stand I am going to continue focusing on the two issues that pose the greatest threat to religious liberty in our time: the HHS mandate and the “marriage equality” movement. I expect it will also be necessary to continue defending free markets and private property as our social democratic government continues its assault on both. Many Catholics still believe that they have a religious obligation to support a welfare state and open borders. These beliefs are toxic even if well-intended.
Well, that’s all for now. Let the comments roll.
Thanks to the efforts of Ron Paul and other pro-life libertarians, I’ve found that it is no longer automatically assumed that libertarians are pro-abortion. This is as it should be.
I have been writing about politics, morality and religion for years now, and I often do so with a certain amount of passion and sometimes anger. I really thought I had seen it all in terms of hypocrisy and sheer moral blindness. I really didn’t think it could get much worse. But here we are.
In case you haven’t yet heard, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is aggressively pushing for a bill that would legalize late-term abortions in his state. It would allow non-doctors to perform them. It would eliminate parental notification laws – all of this, according to the Democrats for Life, who are as disgusted as I am with this man and his agenda.
And there is is plenty to be disgusted with here. Partial-birth abortions themselves are disgusting, the violent dismemberment of a tiny human being usually for the convenience of someone else. Abortion clinics are often disgusting, staffed by incompetents and criminals, the refuse of the legitimate and respectable medical profession. The rest of Cuomo’s legislation is pretty bad as well, including coercive wealth redistribution and other infringements upon liberty and property in the name of “gender equality”, something the coercive arm of the state has no business getting involved in at all.
But nothing, and I mean nothing, is more disgusting than the sight of this man himself, who just recently pushed through some of the most aggressive anti-gun rights legislation in the entire country, supposedly for the children. Here is what the unconscionable scumbag declared while promoting his gun policies:
“This is a scourge on society,” Cuomo said Monday night, one month after the Newtown, Conn., shooting that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. “At what point do you say, ‘No more innocent loss of life.”‘
What I want to know is, at what point does someone slap Andrew Cuomo so hard, so many times, that he never again has the gall to speak of “innocent loss of life” while promoting the mass-murder of infants with dirty metal tools in dirty little rooms? At what point do we, perhaps, strap him to a chair and force him to watch the scissors being jammed into the back of the child’s neck before its brains are vacuumed out? At what point do we go absolutely crazy, unable to bear for another day, another moment, a moral blindness and/or hypocrisy so heavy and so dark that you just want to to completely give up?
I don’t really have much more to say about it. Not much more should be said about it. At this point you either see how completely messed up this is, or you’re hopeless and we can’t communicate. Finally, check out my new personal blog, where I will try to contain all of the foreign policy and civil liberty stuff that TAC readers can’t stand. You know, the Ron Paul echo chamber stuff.
I never quite know what to say whenever a public tragedy occurs. Everything sounds like an obligatory platitude, or something that has already been said, or something that shouldn’t even need to be said. Ultimately the slaying of 20 innocent children along with 6 adults is horrific beyond words.
The reality we live in is one in which almost everyone agrees that to “politicize” tragedy is wrong, and in which almost everyone does it anyway. It didn’t take long for the gun-grabbers to begin howling against the NRA, the 2nd amendment, and guns in general. Some of the howling may really be sincere. Children died, and emotions are running extremely high. Some people may really believe that taking away my right to own a gun, and the rights of millions upon millions of sane, decent people’s right to do the same, is necessary to protect society from the handful of psychotic individuals who will use guns to inflict harm on the innocent.
So this is not an angry tirade against the gun-grabbers (as well as the others I will surely also offend). If I could inject tone into written words, I’d say this is more of a plea, though not a hysterical one.
The search for an economic and political “third way” between socialism and capitalism has been underway since the early 20th century, if not sooner. In Catholic circles, Distributism is a third way that many are eager to discuss. I suspect many of the people reading this blog have heard of Distributism by now.
I was once attracted to the idea of Distributism, until I came to the vital question of who would be doing the “distributing” of the private property that everyone was supposed to own and how it would be done. To be vague or silent on this question is completely unacceptable. And yet there are really only two possible answers. Either people will be persuaded via reasonable argument and successful example to get together with like-minded people and distribute property in various ways, or people will be forced to do it at gunpoint.
It didn’t take me long to realize that there was really no “middle ground” between these two options, just as there is really no middle ground between free will and determinism (even if various factors can influence person’s will). If you haven’t persuaded someone to do what you want, the only other way is force. So the question becomes: is it legitimate to use force to impose an ideology on society? Is it legitimate for a band of political visionaries to come together and either use the power of the existing state or establish a new state to drag the unwilling or apathetic masses along? And does a system which is supposedly in man’s best interests need to be established at gunpoint, as if it weren’t?
So we’ve been discussing the proper role of the state on this blog recently, particularly as it relates to the legalization of marijuana. This discussion, in all of its unfortunate snarkiness and nastiness (to which I freely admit having contributed, not that I’m proud of it) is really a discussion on the proper role of the state.
I think it is rather uncontroversial to assert that America was basically founded upon the Lockean social contract theory. We begin with the proposition that everyone has basic natural rights: to life, liberty, and property. In a hypothetical scenario in which there is no coercive authority (the state/government), we must also act as our own judge, jury and executioner. In this anarchic situation, our rights to life, liberty and property are unsecured. In order to secure them, we collectively renounce our right to be our own personal government and transfer that right to a government we establish by contract. Our property – life, liberty and estate – is more valuable and necessary for life than our “right” to do as we please, when we please, to whomever we please.
The terms of the contract are rather simple. They are stated very simply in the Declaration of Independence. Governments exist to protect our natural rights. They don’t exist to make us “better people” – that’s what the Church is for. They don’t exist in order to achieve “social justice” – that is what private charity and free markets are for. The individual American states were founded by people of like-minds who wanted to establish communities that reflected their religious values – Pennsylvania for Quakers, Maryland for Catholics, and so on. The Constitution was created by the states mostly for the purposes of common security.
Government is not a positive good. It is an evil necessary to prevent the greater evils that would result from total anarchy. As such, it must be kept on the tightest of all possible leashes, which is why so many Americans demanded a Bill of Rights as a condition for the ratification of the Constitution. If men in a state of anarchy would be evil, they don’t suddenly become angels because we give them titles, badges, and offices. The evil in our hearts is the evil in their hearts, and the greater the scope and depth of the powers we give to governments, the greater potential for evil we establish.
In 1883, William Graham Sumner published an essay titled “The Forgotten Man” (originally titled “On the Case of a Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of” – not quite as catchy) which is as relevant today as it was when it was written. The essay is a great exposition of the laissez-faire understanding and approach to social problems and articulates what I believe many on the libertarian right and within the Tea Party believe today. From a Catholic point of view, there is much I find agreeable within it, though there are certain tangents, unnecessary to the main argument, that I would take issue with.
Secession has been in the news lately. Well, not the mainstream news, for the most part, but local, Internet and alternative news outlets have been reporting a growing number of signatures added to secession petitions submitted to Washington (one has it at over 750,000 signatures). This began almost immediately after President Obama’s reelection, and while no one really expects this particular movement to go anywhere, people on both sides of our political divide take it somewhat seriously as a sign of how polarized and unstable our situation has become.
I’m going to tell you what I think about secession, and my hope is that readers will find it somewhat reasonable. In short, I reject the absolutely hysterical and frothing narrative that comes from some leftist quarters about the evil of secession. I don’t much appreciate the haughty dismissal and contempt that comes from some on both the left and the right, as if only a mental patient would want to secede from what America has become. Lastly, I don’t agree with the secessionists, but it has nothing to do with any sort of moral or philosophical objection to the principle of secession (I don’t think it is racist or crazy, in other words). Now to the meat and bones.
Let me explain, in as clear and precise terms as I can, why social conservatives are not going anywhere, nor should they go anywhere, but should remain right at the heart of the conservative movement and gain acceptance among libertarians as well, and should reject as the foolish garbage that it is all suggestions to the contrary.
First, our principles are not electoral losers. Leftists believe they are on “the right side of history”, comparing the campaign for “marriage equality” with every civil rights struggle of past eras. They believe that this fact is reflected in the way the youth vote splits and the purported reasons why. At the same time, they gloat and brag about the size of the Democratic share of the minority vote.
The merits of the “marriage equality” campaign don’t need to be discussed here. I’ve discussed them to death on this blog in previous posts. The fact remains that minorities are opposed to “marriage equality.” If Hispanics can be won over to the GOP on the immigration issue, it will put a stop to this “wrong side of history” nonsense for a generation. The uncomfortable alliance between racial minorities who hold socially conservative views and white liberals will finally be blown apart. Unlike them, when racial minorities finally do side with the GOP en masse, we won’t attribute white liberal hatred for them to “racism” (even though it sure looks like it sometimes). This is a battle of values, not skin colors, and a failure to see that is one of the reasons why the white liberal left will never win the future they mistakenly believe to be theirs.