7 Responses to Libertarianism & CST: The Debate Continues

  • My response:
    Sanchez says I’ve done nothing to alter his original opinion of my views:
    “everything that coheres with the libertarian worldview is in; everything which opposes it is out.”
    Let me explain why it looks that way. As I have already mentioned, and as has been mentioned by other Catholic libertarians and even pro-market conservatives, there are two kinds of statements about economics; “normative” or moral statements, and descriptive or technical statements. In my reading of the Papal encyclicals, there is very little, if anything at all, in the way of normative or moral statements that I would toss out. This is because the vast majority of such statements are clearly oriented towards the ultimate ends of economic activity, which is the common good. No disagreement from me on that!
    What I consider “out” are statements of a descriptive or predictive or theoretical nature that are either dubious or simply false. And there are plenty of those.
    “As a matter of interpretive principles, I reject Hargrave’s narrow textualist approach which would create a tensions in the encyclical’s text and also put Leo XIII’s instruction out of continuity with post-Leonine developments of Catholic social teaching (CST). Hargrave, oddly, seems to forget that Rerum Novarum launched, not capped, the Church’s modern social magisterium.”
    I don’t believe my reading of RN creates tensions in the text itself. Here Sanchez and I have what I consider to be mostly a semantic dispute that I’m not even going to address in detail here. But I do believe there are tensions between RN and later developments in CST. So what?
    The whole reason we have these debates is to overcome the incessant moralism and dogmatism that the self-appointed defenders of CST often engage in. I am not arguing that all Catholics must be libertarians, but I am arguing that the goals of justice and general prosperity are best served by a market economy. In the minds of more than a few Catholics, this argument itself is heretical. In Leo XIII we have a pope who articulated and defended the first and most basic pillar of a free market economy – the individual, natural and inviolable right to the fruits of one’s labor as their property. In further discussing the relation between the individual man and the state, Leo XIII defends the idea that it is man who precedes the state (a reversal of the old Aristotelian idea), that his rights exist before the state exists, and it is the state that exists to serve man and protect his rights. He rejects the notion that the state has a duty to confiscate the surplus wealth of individuals and redistribute it to the poor (except in cases of extreme need). If all of this causes “tension”, well, one can read it all out of the encyclical, deny that it is there, magically “contextualize” it out of existence – or one can accept that there are tensions, and that this is ok. Who said there had to be 100% consistency on these points? We’re not talking about the Immaculate Conception here.
    I could also go off on a long tangent about a whole host of other “tensions” in the pre and post Vatican II Magisteriums that are a heck of a lot more disturbing than this one, but Sanchez is quite familiar with those already.

    Sanchez says I and others blatantly mischaracterize his views about what CST calls for. Well, I never intended to mischaracterize. His views weren’t exactly clear to me, and in some cases I was simply speaking in general terms about what people on his side of the spectrum tend to believe. I have a feeling that if we got down to details, we would probably end up agreeing on a number of issues. If he rejects mass egalitarian projects like Obamacare, onerous taxes on the wealthy, a Leviathan administrative state, etc. then I don’t see that we have many practical disagreements. The key issue for the libertarian is the use of force. As a minarchist I’m not a “pure” libertarian anarchist, but I do reject confiscatory taxation as a violation of the right to private property. I reject the idea that an entity with an absolute monopoly of violence is required to “intervene” in the economy – let alone to ensure that “labor” is somehow exalted over “capital.” Of course I am interested to see how that might be done without “heavy handed, often costly regulatory measures.” Impress me!
    “I would ask Hargrave, in charity as a fellow Catholic, to drop libertarianism’s Manichaean outlook which would have all the world divided into “freedom lovers” and “statists.””
    I haven’t called anyone a statist, not here, in my previous reply, or in my Crisis piece. If I did in a comment box somewhere, I apologize.

  • That picture of Leo XIII is vaguely campy. Why are you using it?

  • There are many reasons why the state may interfere with free markets, other than redistribution of wealth.

    Protectionism, whether in the form of tariffs or subsidies is often proposed on strategic grounds, to ensure security of supply in the event of conflict. For more than a century, French governments protected their iron and steel industries, subsidized agriculture for this reason. They built a vast rail network, 30,000 km of it, with branch lines serving every hamlet. Most of these could never operate at a profit; they were intended for the rapid mobilisation of reserves and it was as much part of the national defences as the frontier fortresses.

    It was Liberals and Radical Republicans, one recalls, who treated universal suffrage and universal conscription as two sides of the same coin and saw in the levée en masse the supreme expression of the republic, one and indivisible

    Adam Smith, one recalls, defended the Navigation Acts, requiring British goods to be exported in British ships on precisely these grounds: they created, in effect, a naval reserve and a ready supply of fleet auxiliaries.

    An Arch-Conservative like Bismark, ran Prussia like an armed camp; every male citizen was a soldier, actual or potential, industry was increasingly integrated into the system of national defence and the distinction between the armed forces and the “Home Front” was blurred.

    One recalls Rousseau, “Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign [the People] is sole judge of what is important.”

  • Pingback: A Modern Pope Gets Old School on the Devil - BigPulpit.com
  • So far all wealth transfer has done is export abortion, contraception and sterilization to men and women around the world, particularly in developing countries that don’t want it. In fact, the recipients of charity must agree to sterilize, Norplant or vasectomies in order to receive food, medicine, water and mosquito nets. It disgusts me. I refuse to support government mandated wealth redistribution until the evils of abortion and contraception are abolished. Let the poor receive hard goods (such as bags of rice) through reputable suppliers only, and not the U.N. and its population councils as it is presently done. I demand that Pope Francis account for where charitable donations go, and give us a sound reason why Catholics should support wealth redistribution in the face of this great evil.

  • This is most certainly an oversimplified assertion, but libertarianism, as it is generally espoused today, is compatible neither with Catholicism nor, for that matter, with the American ethos. Liberty and order, which may superficially appear to be incompatible, must be pursued simultaneously, as neither has unqualified primacy of place in the creation and maintenance of the good society.

    Catholicism and the American ethos define order in a quite different manner, but both acknowledge that order, pursued in a predetermined, consistent and principled manner, is necessary to true liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One of the primary challenges for American Catholics is to resolve the tension between the Catholic view of order and the American view of order.

  • ” . . . but libertarianism, as it is generally espoused today, is compatible neither with Catholicism nor for that matter, with the American ethos.”
    Correct. Libertarianism, as it is generally espoused today, is a corruption fomented by major party hacks and other fascists of varying hue. Libertarianism, as I knew it 30 years ago before it became a threat to the Standing Order, was so compatible with the American ethos that we had trouble even finding contrast to give it substance and definition. It was compatible with Catholicism like nitrogen is compatible with breathing. As it is generally espoused today it is not Libertarianism. To believe that it is, is to swallow the Kool-Aid and join the lockstep ranks of statist lemmings.
    The corruption that Libertarianism has suffered is the same corruption that has pervaded all of American society. All of society and everything relevant to it – in short, pretty much everything – is now seen through the lens of collective politics and government. In this way, the Progressive Fascists have already won the day. This warped, Godless perspective cannot but paint its diametric opposite in anything but the ugliest of shades. The better part, then, it to shatter the lens of corruption and look straight on.
    Once the corrupting interference is excised, Libertarianism is viewed from a human perspective which is the only accurate view: Morals and ethics ought to be taught by parents to their children, informed and reinforced by their chosen houses of worship without question of correctness, even in dissimilarity, among the citizens. Responsibilities ought to be solely the realm of the individual, forged by the necessity of either working in profitable mutual effort or failing. Rights ought to be propagated primarily through their mutual defense even (or especially) in disagreement in order to preserve the integrity of community and nation (“I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Try that on ANY campus of “higher learning” today.) Shortcoming in any of these three areas represents a failure, and it is incumbent upon friend and neighbor to offer fellowship, loving chastisement and opportunity for mutual benefit in its cure. These are the cornerstones of Libertarianism.
    Government ought to be the warehouse in which violence in the name of order is bound, and loosed only in circumstances that render no other solution, and solely for the enforcement of contract or punishment of aggressive criminality. All other activity ought to be the domain of the individual citizen; a vigorous Catholic Church would be sine qua non for a prosperous, charitable and orderly community.
    The Austrian School, and not the Keynesian, is the Libertarian economic model. How this can be called incompatible with Catholicism can only be an act of lack of information. Economics, like Salvation, is the action of individuals and cannot be successfully collectivized. The end result is multitudes in landscape, but a forest is only as healthy as its trees.
    So, whatever is called Libertarianism today, it is not. Libertinism, perhaps, but that would die a quick and painful death in a truly Libertarian society; or Anarchy, maybe, but that’s a simple absence of something, and natural abhorrence to vacuum would rapidly address such inequity, and not for the better. Libertarianism is only as visible as it is nowadays because the epicenter of political thought has moved so far from what it used to be. Libertarians’ most object wish is to be unrecognizable from the mainstream in thought and action. The difference between us and other political stripes is that once upon a time, we were.
    So, apologies for the rant. I’m simply tired of seeing the incorrect application of that term. Winessing the success of the Fascists in its obfuscation, to the point that good Catholic folks can’t recognize the system that would best provide for our optimal social condition, is tremendously frustrating and so I had to vent. I appreciate your kindness and time.

Touching Up The Ol’ Hermeneutic: A Reply To Gabriel Sanchez

Tuesday, May 6, AD 2014

Gabriel Sanchez, a Catholic author I know and respect, has written a critique of my – as he calls it – selective “hermeneutic” of libertarian Catholicism at Ethika Politica. Specifically he is critiquing my critique of Mark Shea’s indictment of libertarianism as heresy at Crisis magazine. It seems he at least agrees with my point that libertarianism is not heresy, but that may be where the agreement ends There are some broad points of his critique I want to address.

First there is Sanchez’s claim that my argument regarding the limits Leo places on the state with respect to taxation and charity is “strange.” The part of paragraph 22 that Sanchez says I “overlook” is irrelevant; in context, it is clear that Leo does not believe that the state has a duty to expropriate and confiscate wealth in the name of charity. I could have quoted more of that paragraph to support my point, such as “[n]o one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.”” After this, the part I did quote:

“But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. “Of that which remaineth, give alms.”(14) It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity – a duty not enforced by human law.”

Maybe we live in two different semantic universes, but in mine, when someone says “no one is commanded”, “not of justice”, “not enforced by human law”, the meaning is clear: the state has no obligation to confiscate the private property of citizens and distribute it to whomever it deems worthy. Whether to give and how much to give is a matter for each individual to decide. I suppose it is arguable that the state could do these things with the consent of the people, but it is not required to do so and the libertarian argument against them would remain quite valid.

Continue reading...

21 Responses to Touching Up The Ol’ Hermeneutic: A Reply To Gabriel Sanchez

  • Sanchez must be an pinhead from academia. Thanks, Mr. McClarey for standing your ground. Your argument seems to be reason and logic based. The pinhead seems to be living on an alternate universe.

  • Thank you Ray, but this is Bonchamps’ post.

  • Debating or arguing Mark Shea is less productive than soaking one’s head in a can of paint.

  • I apologize. For some reason I thought Bonchamps was a nom de plume for you. Sorry.

  • I have read both articles and I must say it is one of the most polite exchanges I have read on the topic. After reading the comments between Mr Sanchez and others on the original article I am led to conclude that perhaps you and the original author are closer in agreement on the nature of state involvement then the normal confrontation between libertarians and there opponents in the Catholic world.

    “Libertarianism “exists” whenever people conduct their affairs freely without the intervention of busy-bodies, social engineers and moralists who have armed agents at their disposal to impose their will.”

    I would be curious as to how you would define a moralist.

  • “I have read both articles and I must say it is one of the most polite exchanges I have read on the topic.”
    After hundreds of nasty exchanges on this topic, I’m glad I’m evolving a bit. I agree, though, it’s usually brutal.
    As for moralists, I mean people who think that their moral positions override evidence, reason, logic, etc. When someone says “we must do x, regardless of the consequences”, for instance. Consequences matter. I wouldn’t argue that they’re always the most important thing, but even when they aren’t, they can’t be treated as if they don’t exist. A lot of proposals for intervention into the economy begin with a moral idea, and they overlook the hidden costs and consequences. And to me, that itself is a moral failing, it is a reckless disregard for how one’s ideas and actions affect other people.

  • St. Gregory the Great has a fair amount to say on the topic of those who give alms from what they have seized from others. Check Book 3 of Pastoral Rule, aka in your Old English literature class as the Book of Pastoral Care.

  • Pingback: Should the Church Refuse Court-Mandated Abuse Settlements - Big Pulpit
  • Bonchamps

    I should appreciate your take on Pope Pius XI’s observations in Casti Connubii. Please excuse the rather lengthy citation:
    “120. If, however, for this purpose, private resources do not suffice, it is the duty of the public authority to supply for the insufficient forces of individual effort, particularly in a matter which is of such importance to the common weal, touching as it does the maintenance of the family and married people. If families, particularly those in which there are many children, have not suitable dwellings; if the husband cannot find employment and means of livelihood; if the necessities of life cannot be purchased except at exorbitant prices; if even the mother of the family to the great harm of the home, is compelled to go forth and seek a living by her own labour; if she, too, in the ordinary or even extraordinary labours of childbirth, is deprived of proper food, medicine, and the assistance of a skilled physician, it is patent to all to what an extent married people may lose heart, and how home life and the observance of God’s commands are rendered difficult for them; indeed it is obvious how great a peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that, having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.
    121. Wherefore, those who have the care of the State and of the public good cannot neglect the needs of married people and their families, without bringing great harm upon the State and on the common welfare. Hence, in making the laws and in disposing of public funds they must do their utmost to relieve the needs of the poor, considering such a task as one of the most important of their administrative duties.”
    Surely, “the public security” and the protection of “established order” is one of the primary obligations of the state, on any view of it?

  • After reading the comments between Mr Sanchez and others on the original article I am led to conclude that perhaps you and the original author are closer in agreement on the nature of state involvement then the normal confrontation between libertarians and there opponents in the Catholic world.

    When you say, “original author” you mean Mark Shea? That’s… interesting since one his new tags for articles is:

    “Libertarianism is a Heresy for People with No Children”

    Given that and some other posts, it doesn’t seem that Shea has an issue with the role of government as a principle, but just that the people he wants are not in charge.

  • “Libertarianism is a Heresy for People with No Children”

    I am no Libertarain but I think those with no children actually want bigger government:


  • Social Justice is giving to the needy what they need to sustain life, not to fulfill their desires. (the needy ought to desire from another only what he truly needs to sustain life or the description “needy” would be a fraud.).
    The economy must be based on the virtue of charity. (giving a child a pound of candy is NOT charity. I know. I’ve done it. The child survived after a couple of days.) You give me a dress I need, (not want) and I give you the means to replace the dress for another. This is an exercise of the virtue of charity. It is also the exercise of freedom in free will and consent, absolutely necessary to contract.
    For the government to strongarm its citizens to fulfill some form of giving it has devised is tyranny and extortion and plain taking without compensation; unconstitutional, according to the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment.
    For the government to despise our freedom and present itself as the “just compensation” called for in the Fifth Amendment is ludicrous if it weren’t so monstrous.

  • MPS,

    The specific list of problems Pius XI lists can be addressed by free markets. Competition is what lowers the costs of everyday goods and services that people need. Meanwhile rent and price controls have the effect of causing shortages, disincentivizing investments and improvements, and causing unemployment. I would argue that “the poor” as he conceives them and “the poor” as they exist in the America of 2014 are also two very different groups. Poverty is relative, and in America it is temporary. And that’s part of the problem with Papal economics; it assumes that there is a fixed group of people who are in poverty. That might have been true 100 years ago, and it may still be true today in some countries, but it isn’t true in the US or in any other place where the balance between markets and interventionism tilts towards markets. On the other hand massive interventions have the effect of actually creating a permanently poor class of people, the closest to which we have in the US are the urban blacks who have been the recipients of the most “aid.”

  • @Nate Winchester

    No I meant the article written by Mr Gabriel Sanchez when I said original article. I did not read the article by Mark Shea.

  • Bonchamps

    No doubt, in the long run, free markets do raise living standards. However, a generation after the repeal of the Corn Laws,Disraeli famously twitted the Liberals of the Manchester School with proclaiming peace and plenty amid a starving people and a world in arms.

    In the meantime, Pius XI’s concern about public order can be genuine enough. We have only to recall the June Days of 1848, following the closure of the National Workshops. Then, the Liberals secured a victory over the Radical Republicans, but at the cost of 1,500 dead in the streets of Paris and thousands of summary executions of prisoners. The Assembly, one recalls, welcomed the surrender of the last barricade with cries of “Long Live the Republic!” What they got, inevitably, was Napoleon III.

  • @Noah M

    Ah I gotcha. When you have several layers of replies and back and forths like this, things can get confusing.

  • There can be no free market as long as the government monopolizes the money supply

    Well, someone has drunk the Austro-Kool-Aid.

  • You left off the coordinating clause Art.

    But then I’ve been known to tipple with the Austrians myself.

  • Art Deco

    Monetary theory is a closed book to me, but I once encountered it in a practical form.
    I had to draw the indictment of some men who had robbed a branch of the Clydesdale Bank and part of their haul consisted of the bank’s own banknotes. What was the value of those notes?

    On their face, they are a promise by the bank to pay the bearer on demand £x. To any other holder, they are worth £x, but what are those held by the bank worth to the bank? The bank cannot owe money to itself. My researches showed that in their balance sheet “Notes in the Banking dept” appear as a deduction from “Notes in circulation” (a liability) Stocks of unissued notes are shown at cost (the printer’s charges) under “Consumables” (an asset)

    Having asked a number of colleagues, as puzzled as myself, I resorted to “x pieces or thereby of printed paper, bearing to be banknotes of the said bank and having a face value of £y or thereby, the value of the said pieces of paper being otherwise to the prosecutor unknown, the property or in the lawful possession of the said bank.”

    Does anyone have any better idea?

  • Pingback: Libertarianism & CST: The Debate Continues | The American Catholic
  • Pingback: Catholic Libertarianism: A Debate | Opus Publicum

Shea & I: A Follow-Up

Saturday, May 3, AD 2014


I have a new piece up at Crisis regarding libertarianism and heresy inspired by a post on Mark Shea’s blog. Since I post there under my actual name, and since the reasons I had for writing under a pen name have largely vanished, I suppose my pen name is no longer needed here, though I will keep it because the Marquis de Bonchamps is still my hero. Anyway, I wanted to post some additional thoughts here for those interested, and since there are (as of 5/3, 11 am Pacific Time) 320 comments between my article and Shea’s reply, there might be a few. So here they are:

1) I didn’t choose the name of the piece – or the picture (above). Shea and I am sure others know that writers don’t often get this privilege when they submit something for publication. It’s not that I wholly object to the title and I like the painting, but I might have chosen something else. It wasn’t my intention to provoke the man.

2) Speaking of which, I haven’t followed Shea’s writings enough to know whether or not he deserves the almost unprecedented levels of animosity directed at him through the com-boxes. I’ve found some of his writing to be agreeable in the past and I have nothing personal against him. It was his claim, not his character, I was seeking to critique. I don’t approve of or condone the savaging of the man on a personal level.

3) Shea, through the com-boxes in his reply (though oddly not in the actual reply), thinks my argument is “silly” because if libertarianism is heretical, it can’t possibly be worth anything (thus rendering my probing questions in the opening of the piece superfluous). And yet in his original post (the second link above), he makes a practical argument against libertarianism and I am still not sure if it is the reason why he thinks it is heretical or if it is just some unrelated tangent. If libertarianism is heresy – end of story, end of debate – why proceed to make a rather half-hearted point against it, in this case, that it is somehow “utopian”? Or is that the reason he thinks it is heretical? He didn’t make that clear, hence the questions I pose in the piece. I also make clear that since I believe that a) libertarian arguments against confiscatory taxation are rooted in true and morally good principles and b) the Church does not reject what is true or good that c) it is very likely that at least what I call libertarianism is not “heretical.” I thought that was rather obvious.

One last thing: another publication will be posting a reply to my piece on Tuesday. I won’t give anymore details for now, but I expect a lively exchange to result.

Continue reading...

24 Responses to Shea & I: A Follow-Up

  • I predict at least 100 comments before midnight! Mark’s strong point has never been political analysis. His calling Libertarianism heretical is rather like me giving an opinion on Bulgarian basket weaving.

  • Where there is truth we should magnify it whether it be from a democrat, republican, or a libertarian. Not shout heresy!
    And I do realize your definition of libertarianism is not necessarily equal to that of the political party.
    Even communists espouse solidarity while ignoring human dignity, common good, and subsidiarity.

  • Mr. Hargrave, you do have a curious attraction to Libertarianism, personally I associate with Tea Party fiscal conservatism while rejecting the Ayn Rand wing of this group. Since there is no Catholic Party how are we to associate ourselves politically?
    I say we have two choices, do what St John Paul II said, or be like JFK.

    Evangelium Vitae
    90. The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defence of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life.

    JFK renounced his faith in his 1960 political speech, “Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”
    Verses john Paul’s Evangelium Vitae
    90. . But no one can ever renounce this responsibility, especially when he or she has a legislative or decision-making mandate, which calls that person to answer to God, to his or her own conscience and to the whole of society for choices which may be contrary to the common good

  • Best Wishes, Bonchamps.

  • Mr. Hargrove, if I may and respectfully of your many comtributoins, you are far too talented and able to be wasting your time responding to the nonsense and invective spewed from the pen of Mark Shea. But for your link to your Crisis article I would not have otherwise ever read that to which you felt necessitated a response. Mr. Shea, to be kind, is not worthy of the credibility of your effort. Lend him not any platform.

  • Carl,

    I think that the basic premises of libertarianism are compatible with CST. I don’t think CST demands a regime of confiscatory taxation, and in fact such a regime in conflict with the labor theory of property shared by Locke and Pope Leo XIII. The Church thrived in the supposedly bad old days of laissez-faire capitalism in the United States, it grew by leaps and bounds because the rights of individuals to associate and practice their religion were respected.

    I’m not an anarchist, and I don’t think libertarianism mandates anarchism. I find anarchist arguments to make a certain amount of sense but I do believe CST is incompatible with a categorical and absolute rejection of the state. These are prudential matters, in other words.

    I would diverge sharply from the Rothbard wing of libertarianism on the question of abortion, but his critique of egalitarianism is one that the Church can and should appreciate. We ought to have a common anti-egalitarian front, since radical egalitarianism is the menace of our time, threatening private property and the Church alike.

  • I second Cthemfly’s request.

    The ratio of heat to light, emanating from and around Mr.Shea, means nothing good can come of it.

  • I don’t know… Shea’s ego is growing almost out of control and he could use a good thumping.

    At the very least, as much as he puts himself on the “front” of Catholic evangelism then replies like yours are needed otherwise many will assume they have no place in the Church because of Shea’s words and turn away.

  • Cthemfly25,

    I appreciate the kind words. My piece really isn’t about Shea – its about everyone who shares his view, and there are more than a few who do. I think the general charge that libertarianism – without qualification – is “heresy” deserves a response, regardless of who makes it.

    Like I said, I don’t follow Shea closely enough to really vibe with all of the really negative things people say about the man. I just happened upon his brief blog post in my daily reading and thought it made a point that deserved critique.

  • Joe, while I admire you for manning up to answer Mark Shea, IMO, it’s a waste of time to respond to him. His mind is already made up, he doesn’t want to be confused with the facts. His theme song ought to be the song sang by Groucho Marx in Horsefeathers, “I’m Against It!”

  • Shea vs. Joe is the intellectual equivalent of the Washington Generals vs. the Harlem Globetrotters. I’ve had many disagreements with Joe over the years, but at least he clearly demonstrates that he has done his homework and always puts forward strong, well-articulated arguments. For Mark freaking Shea of all people to call his article “silly” is not as much laughable as sad. Frankly I feel embarrassed for Shea when he delves into political theory, because the man is simply out of his depth.

    I know that Joe’s main focus is not on Shea, so I look forward to future pieces where hopefully someone with a little bit more ability to articulate nuance thoughts can rebut him, and then we can all sit back and bask in the glow of spirited, healthy debate. Sadly Mark Shea is not the man for such a task.

  • Government can’t solve income inequality, but it surely can fix it.

  • Bonchamps wrote “the labor theory of property shared by Locke and Pope Leo XIII…”

    I find it hard to credit that Leo XIII shared the property theory of Locke. It would be difficult to reconcile with the teaching of the Catholic Church that If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.“

    Historically, the theory of property embraced by every canonist and moral theologian has been that of the Civil Law of Justinian, which defines the origin of property very well. “By the law of nations, those things which we take from an enemy become ours at once.” [ea quae ex hostibus capimus iure gentium statim nostra fiunt – [Lib 2 tit 1] In other words, the land was acquired by the arms of the legions and every acre of it belonged to the senate and the Roman people or their assignees.

    Locke’ s labour theory of property is plainly nonsense, for it would make the acquisitions of a wife, a slave, a son in power, or (in later times) a vassal theirs, rather than belonging to the paterfamilias, or the superior. It is based on a failure to distinguish use and possession (which are physical facts) from ownership, which is a legal right. As the great classical scholar, Charles Rollin (1661-1741), reminds us, “Theft was permitted in Sparta. It was severely punished among the Scythians. The reason for this difference is obvious: the law, which alone determines the right to property and the use of goods, granted a private individual no right, among the Scythians, to the goods of another person, whereas in Sparta the contrary was the case.”

    You can see this principle everywhere enunciated in the French Revolution. Take Mirabeau (a moderate) “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens” So, too, Robespierre (not a moderate) “In defining liberty, the first of man’s needs, the most sacred of his natural rights, we have said, quite correctly, that its limit is to be found in the rights of others. Why have you not applied this principle to property, which is a social institution, as if natural laws were less inviolable than human conventions?”

  • “I find it hard to credit that Leo XIII shared the property theory of Locke.”
    Then you have some homework to do. Read paragraph 27 of the Second Treatise. Read paragraph 9 of Rerum Novarum. It’s almost plagiarism. And it affirms the individual, inviolable and natural right to the fruits of one’s labor as their property.
    “It would be difficult to reconcile with…”
    If you really want to square the circle, I’ll put it this way: I have a suspicion that the “teaching” to which you refer about landed estates was written with places such as Latin America in mind, in which a hereditary aristocracy swallowed up large areas of land and claimed it as their own regardless of what they did with it. Locke’s homesteading principle is not a theory of land acquisition, though – it is a labor theory of property. It is labor that makes property. So how could labor be, to use the terms from the “teaching” you so often reference, “impede general prosperity”, be “extensive”, be “unused or poorly used”, “bring hardship”, etc? Rerum Novarum doesn’t just quote Locke on the LTP, after all; it also makes use of his paean to the benefits of labor, which takes the sort of unused land that you are talking about and makes into something beneficial for everyone. One might even argue that the “teaching” to which you refer could be reconciled with Locke’s condition that one can only acquire property insofar as they leave enough for others. If one takes land and uses it productively, they necessarily serves others and improves society; if one takes land and simply fences it off without cultivating it, they aren’t improving anyone’s life and it isn’t clear that Locke would consider such an act to be a natural/moral acquisition of property. So I don’t see a real conflict here.
    “In other words, the land was acquired by the arms of the legions and every acre of it belonged to the senate and the Roman people or their assignees.”
    So this is your answer? Let’s get rid of that whole idea of acquiring labor peacefully through hard work, which benefits everyone else as well – let’s bring back might makes right as the foundation of ownership. This isn’t “the law of nations.” It is the law of the jungle. And this is supposed to be morally superior to peaceful economic competition? Locke did the world a favor and so did Pope Leo XIII when he baptized the labor theory of property.
    “Locke’ s labour theory of property is plainly nonsense, for it would make the acquisitions of a wife, a slave, a son in power, or (in later times) a vassal theirs, rather than belonging to the paterfamilias, or the superior.”
    Actually I find that Locke’s assumption in the ST is that it is male heads of households who will be doing the labor, and that the labor performed by servants employed by them, belongs to them. I see no contradiction here; its the basis of the modern economy. What the worker earns through labor is a wage; what they create belongs to the employer to sell.
    In any case, the whole idea of social “superiors” with an absolute claim over inferiors is gone – and rightfully so. I’m not a radical social egalitarian, but I do believe in equality of individuals before the law, and that includes the right to work, acquire property, and enter into contracts independently and autonomously.
    “As the great classical scholar, Charles Rollin (1661-1741), reminds us…”
    Might makes right, all morals are relative, there is no law of nature. Got it.
    As for Robespierre, did he come up with that before or after, or sometime during his violent persecution of Catholics and other enemies of the state? At this point I don’t care if Europe wants to ignore the natural moral foundations of property. You want to follow Robespierre, fine, have at it. But stop insisting that this is the official teaching of the Church. It isn’t. I’ve proven that it isn’t.

  • I have a suspicion that the “teaching” to which you refer about landed estates was written with places such as Latin America in mind, in which a hereditary aristocracy swallowed up large areas of land and claimed it as their own regardless of what they did with it.

    If I am not mistaken, the order of nobility was to be found in Latin America after 1822 only in Brazil, and was formally discontinued there in 1889. There has definitely been a class of latifundiaries in Latin America, but they are a class in society, not an order of society. Land tenure, security of tenure, seizure of common lands, &c. have all been issues throughout Latin American history to the present day, of course.

  • if libertarianism is heretical, it can’t possibly be worth anything

    Is there an actual theological basis for this notion? Last time I checked, even pagan religions were recognized to have worthy things in them.

  • Bonchamps

    Like Rollin, St Thomas is quite explicit that ownership belongs to positive law: ““Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one’s own: but because the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3). Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.” ST IIa IIae Q66, II,obj 1 That is the reason that conquest destroys all titles, for it removes the legal system on which they rest.

    Rollin also refers to the gleaning laws (Lev 19:9-10, Lev 23:22 and Deut 24:19-21) as examples of how rights of ownership can be modified by positive law, for these precepts formed part of the civil law of the Jewish commonwealth.

  • Bonchamps asks, “So how could labor be, to use the terms from the “teaching” you so often reference, “impede general prosperity”, be “extensive”, be “unused or poorly used”, “bring hardship”, etc?”

    A shooting estate that could be used for pasture, open grazing that is suitable for arable cultivation, agricultural use that prevented exploration and extraction of minerals, agricultural land suitable for building development could all be examples.

    Of course, it would depend on the development plan the public authorities wished to pursue, for we know that “It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity.” (Populorum Progressio 33)

  • “That is the reason that conquest destroys all titles, for it removes the legal system on which they rest.”
    No conquest destroys the right of any individual man to the fruits of his labor. There is no moral basis upon which non-combatants can be expropriated by the marauding soldiers of an invading army. So I have no idea what it is you are trying to prove here.
    “as examples of how rights of ownership can be modified by positive law”
    I really think you are seriously and tragically conflating a whole host of issues here. The labor theory of property, i.e., the explicit teaching of the Catholic Church, holds that labor gives a man exclusive right to a portion of the Earth and that no one is justified in violating that right. It never says that human laws can have no say in the various mundane details of day-to-day matters arising from conflicts between property owners or what have you. There is still room for your precious positive law to operate. The point is that there is a natural law as well with respect to private property, and you absolutely cannot deny it.
    You’ve sure done your best to evade it, though.
    “Of course, it would depend on the development plan the public authorities wished to pursue”
    What WOULDN’T come under the purview of your centralized “development plan”? How many centrally-planned economies have to expropriate their capitalists, lower the standard of living of hundreds of millions of people, commit unspeakable atrocities against them and finally collapse into a rubbish heap before you and Francis stop insisting on directing human behavior with “development plans”?

  • How many centrally-planned economies have to expropriate their capitalists, lower the standard of living of hundreds of millions of people, commit unspeakable atrocities against them and finally collapse into a rubbish heap before you and Francis stop insisting on directing human behavior with “development plans”?

    Oh, oh I know the answer!

    “Until it works!”

  • Genesis 4: 17-19: “Cursed be the ground because of you; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, since out of it you were taken; for dust you are and unto dust you shall return.”
    Our Creator gave the land to man so that man could work out his redemption. To take the man’s land would prevent the man from working out his redemption as prescribed by God. Man would be brought to the brink of hell without hope of salvation. Until the day man returns to dust, it is his property, the land which God handed to Adam to toil and sweat over to redeem himself.
    “or prohibit the free exercise thereof.”. Taking a man’s land is a violation of man freedom to respond to God’s word, in thought, word and deed. Peaceable assembly cannot be violated.
    He, who violates God’s word is possessed by the devil.

  • Best comment above:

    “Government can’t solve income inequality, but it surely can fix it.”

    Many another would have expended 500 words to say it.

    Brevity is tne soul of satire.

  • Pingback: Top 10 St. John Paul II Quotes of All Time - BigPulpit.com
  • Bonchamps asks, “What WOULDN’T come under the purview of your centralized “development plan”? “

    That is why Pope Paul VI insists that “they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.” (Populorum Progressio ibid) That is an important safeguard, but does not undermine the fundamental obligation of the public authorities to oversee development.

    Again, in his Letter to the 52nd Social Week at Brest, in L’homme et la révolution urbaine, Lyon: Chronique sociale (1965), 8-9, Pope Paul VI wrote, “as the Fathers of the Church and other eminent theologians tell us, the right of private property may never be exercised to the detriment of the common good.” When “private gain and basic community needs conflict with one another,” it is for the public authorities “to seek a solution to these questions, with the active involvement of individual citizens and social groups.”
    No one is suggesting that there is not a balance to be struck.

2 Responses to Executive Death Spiral vs. State’s Rights

  • “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” From Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist Church.
    Thomas Jefferson placed his “wall of separation of church and state” after “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,”…the First Amendment.
    “Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience”.
    “…the supreme will of the nation was recorded “in behalf of the rights of conscience”. This criminalizes the HHS Mandate.
    “I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
    The freedom to be American, “his social duties” and the freedom to be Catholic, “his natural right(s)” are not “in opposition”.

  • Many people wrongly assume that “state’s rights” were nothing more than a code word or cover for Southern attempts to preserve slavery (in the 19th century) and racial segregation (in the 20th century). However, “state’s rights” cut both ways in the antebellum era — for example, several Northern states passed personal liberty laws protecting escaped slaves from being recaptured, in direct defiance of the federal Fugitive Slave Act.

    One area in which states are currently exercising their rights in opposition to or defiance of the federal government is marijuana legalization; 20 states now allow its medical use and 2 (Colorado and Washington) have completely legalized it, despite the fact that it’s still illegal at the federal level. However, the feds just recently relaxed restrictions that prevented banks from handling marijuana-related monetary transactions (a restriction that had created huge and potentially dangerous problems for state-legalized dispensaries and cultivation centers). So states can say “no” to Uncle Sam and live to tell about it, even today.

The Return of Crisis Magazine

Monday, May 9, AD 2011

Crisis Magazine is making a triumphal return in the Catholic blogosphere.  InsideCatholic, the website that succeeded Crisis Magazine as an online version has reverted to the original namesake.  Their managing editor, Margaret Cabaniss, has provided a press release of this exciting news.

Here is their truncated version:

“The Morley Publishing Group (MPG)  board and staff are thrilled to resurrect a brand that, for 25 years, fought for faithful Catholicism, sound economics, and limited government,” said Laurance Alvarado, chairman of MPG.

Founded in 1982 by Ralph McInerny and Michael Novak to respond to the leftward drift of the U.S. bishops, the current staff moved Crisis online as InsideCatholic.com in September 2007. With the decline of the print industry, the transition was both necessary and opportune. Within two months, the website had doubled the magazine’s monthly readership.

“It was a win-win situation for us,” said Brian Saint-Paul, editor and new president of MPG. “However, with today’s technology — particularly the iPad, and other mobile devices — magazines can now thrive in digital form. All the readership trends suggest that at some point in the next 12 to 24 months, we’ll reach a tipping point where Americans choose mobile devices over computers for their news, articles, and other media.”

With the struggling economy, the dramatic expansion of the federal government, and the ongoing deterioration of our culture, the staff concluded that it was time for Crisis Magazine to return.

“When Ralph and Michael started Crisis, it was a sixteen-page pamphlet,” Alvarado noted. “Through their efforts, and the hard work of former and longtime publisher Deal W. Hudson, that pamphlet became the flagship publication for faithful Catholics. It’s no exaggeration to say that Crisis helped initiate a renaissance in Catholic political and economic thought.”

“That’s our inspiration and our goal,” Saint-Paul concluded.

The new site, www.crisismagazine.com, went live today at noon EST.

Continue reading...

2 Responses to The Return of Crisis Magazine