A Catholic Defense of Freedom

For a generation, some Catholics in America believed that the Gospel injunction to help the poor meant to help them through government.  Joined to that was a distaste for the WASP-dominated business culture of postwar American prosperity, even though Catholics had enjoyed the fruits of that prosperity along with other Americans.  The long tradition of Catholic reflection on the need for limited government and the licitness of a robust free market, was obscured.

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, has written a vigorous defense of that tradition in the face of fresh threats to liberty.  He represents a second wave of thinkers reflecting on Catholicism and the American experiment since Vatican II.  The first generation, dominated by thinkers such as Michael Novak, returned to Catholic thought a favorable view of limited government and the free market. This was no easy sell.  On the one hand, there were still groups of traditionalist Catholics who, disdaining modernity, thought that the better—indeed, the only proper—relationship between the state and church was a premodern one in which the Church controlled the excesses of the state from an official position, and the state controlled the excesses of the market.  This may have made sense in a premodern world where the apparatus of state control was undeveloped, and where improvements in trade and finance made free-market exchanges difficult.  But that had not been the case for some centuries, and a residual distaste among some Catholics for bourgeois society was not a sufficient basis to reject the unprecedented prosperity the free market brought to the world, rich and poor alike.

On the other hand, there were significant numbers of Catholics and other Christians who also believed the state needed to intervene and control the economy, but with less emphasis on any formal union between church and state.  These advocates of ‘social justice” were more than willing to let the Church take a backseat to political planners and a centralized economy.  Thus an older generation of Catholic leaders, including bishops, equated the welfare state with Catholic teaching, and argued (for example, even recently against Congressman Paul Ryan and the United States Catholic Bishops Conference) that reduction of such programs was somehow contrary to Catholic teaching.

TeaPartyCatholic_covGregg has three competing stories to tell. First he wants to explain how a Catholic can responsibly defend limited government and the free market in accordance with Catholic teaching.  This remains a crucial argument to make; since the 1980s, the welfare state has only expanded.  As the financial and housing crises of 2008 show, many still look to government to control the economy, and bail out entire industries.  Second, he wants to defend the substance of those teachings against both liberal Catholics and other sorts such as libertarians. Catholicism is not capitalism, and its defense of free-market exchanges and limited government is rooted in a certain view of the human person that is not the same as a secular liberal one.  The Catholic view promotes human flourishing, but holds that flourishing must be consistent with the natural law and the ends of human life, such as the cultivation of virtue and the common good.  Third, he wants to reconcile Catholicism specifically with the American form of republicanism. Gregg argues that the example of Catholics in America shows that the two are compatible, and that indeed the American experiment is consistent with the long tradition of Western liberty inaugurated by the Church.

That first battle, in some sense, has been won.  The collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist dreams it inspired persuaded a generation of young Catholics that freedom, not control, was not only the future but also was more in accord with human nature.  In America, as Gregg writes, “these Catholics were proudly and unambiguously American, though not in a narrow parochial sense.  They were Catholics and Americans, and American and Catholic.  Not only did they believe that Catholicism, as the fullest expression of religious truth, had an indispensible contribution to make to the shaping and uplifting of American culture; they also believed American Catholicism had gifts to offer global Catholicism….  And for many such Catholics, part of their ‘Americanness involved affirmation of what John Paul II called ‘the business economy,’ ‘market economy,’ or simply ‘free economy.’”  This new generation, Gregg argues, needs to apply Catholic historical and moral insights to the market economy as they have to other aspects of life.  “[T]he central thesis of this book is that Catholics who underscore the cause of economic liberty can—nay, must—invest the cause for limited government with the same moral depth that Catholics have brought to other issues.”  Being in favor of limited government, of course, does not mean favoring no government; Catholics are not anarchists or radical libertarians, and recognize that government can and should do certain things.  But government’s tasks should “normally have a small number of clearly-defined functions limited in their scope and impact, including with regard to the economy.”  How and to what extent the government should intervene are prudential judgments, to be made by politicians and voters in good faith.  There is no requirement of any particular set of policies, except that such policies must lead to the common good of all and work no moral evil on the citizens subject to them.

To tie this argument together for Catholics, Gregg invokes Charles Carroll of Carrollton.  Carroll (1737-1832) was a successful merchant and the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Gregg reminds us that in Carroll’s day, Catholics faced significant political and social restrictions.  Nevertheless, Carroll embodied a combination of economic virtue and civic-mindedness that may prove an example for contemporary Catholics in America.  Young Charles returned to his family’s vast Maryland estates in 1765 after almost twenty years abroad, educated largely by the Jesuits, and trained also as a British barrister.  Gregg recounts the liberal education provided to Catholics in those days, deeply infused with medieval and classical learning.  These lessons, capped by Carroll by his studies of the European civil and British common law traditions, provided the intellectual backdrop for his defense of the colonies and their traditional liberties.

Charles Carroll enmeshed himself in public life, even though Catholics were prohibited from basic civil activities such as voting or holding political office. Under the pseudonym “First Citizen,” Carroll became a prominent voice in a debate over the proper powers of government.  As Gregg explains, Carroll was deeply educated in the Western intellectual and political tradition, and he drew upon this deep learning to defend a tolerant, liberal government in the face of vicious anti-Catholic attacks and in a state that denied Catholics their participation in public life.  Moreover Carroll was a prosperous businessman who saw no problem in cultivating virtue in his private life.  Carroll, like many of the Founders, believed that virtue was the basis for government, and liberty meant, first and foremost, government of the self before self-government as a community could occur.  Those habits of virtue were only partially, if at all, able to be fostered by the state.  Rather, small communities, and the family above all, were the source of those habits.

Drawing on the so-called “new natural law” of John Finnis, Germain Grisez and others, Gregg describes the Catholic view of the human person as deeply intertwined with the concept of free choice.  Our “choices about ourselves last until they are negated by a contrary choice.… For better of worse, we become the content of our choices.”  Thus Catholic freedom is the process in part of learning to choose wisely.  This view Gregg astutely contrasts with the Enlightenment view that the individual is a self-contained unit, whose choices do not affect who he truly is.  The Catholic tradition knows better, and knows that choice is not the same as willfulness.  A centralized state, which tells us what is good for us, and promises to provide for us, corrodes that habit of learning and exercising wise choices.

The determination of how government should act and to what extent has long roots as well in Catholic thought, and Gregg devotes some space to a consideration of subsidiarity.  This concept should be familiar to Americans under the name of federalism.  In its briefest sense, it means activity should be conducted and governed as close to the people affected by it as possible.  It is therefore exactly at odds with the modern notion that experts located in Washington can understand and improve the varied circumstances of 300 million people, and more.  Tocqueville recognized the vast profusion of private groups and associations Americans formed in the 1830s, and are still doing so today.  Those groups must be the primary sources of engagement and civil renewal, not government.  If government is to be involved, the lowest possible levels should be engaged first before moving up to the state or the national government. However, more work needs to be done in this area by defenders of the free market. It is all well and good to say government should be involved at the lowest level, or restricted to certain activities, but those details are too often left vague, which permits those favoring state intervention to step in.

Moreover, not all government activities are treated equally.  It is true that welfare programs can decay the work ethic and harm individual dignity, including replacing the family with the state, and Catholics are right to oppose all such efforts.  However, an excessive and extensive military is also a danger.  It destroys local communities, puts strains on families, engages in social engineering opposed at times to Christian understanding, and places ordinary citizens into morally hazardous situations, usually far from home.  Moreover, it suffers from potentially disastrous overreach, such as with the recent revelations about NSA spying.  Opposition to such a bloated bureaucracy should not have a home only on the Catholic left. It can be opposed based on the same Catholic principles Gregg outlines here, while still preserving the role of the state in providing national defense.

Tea Party Catholic therefore does a good job in updating the reason why Catholics should support the free market and limited government, and showing it is in line with both Vatican II and the more recent teachings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  However, more importantly, Gregg goes further. One possible criticism of the first generation of Catholic free market defenders had been that their criticisms of excessive government involvement had not been matched by criticism of consumerism, which has also drawn the ire of Catholic teaching.  Gregg recognizes this issue, and notes that Catholic teaching, by stressing that the material world is good but not final, and that we are shaped by our moral choices, can serve as a bulwark against the equation of material good with moral worth.

Gregg would also do well, in future work, to consider how the union of consumerism and government regulation has evolved.  The current HHS mandate, which Gregg rightly discusses as the threat to religious liberty that it is, represents the government taking a side in a battle, and asserting its own secular values (for a certain view of “health” or “equality”) against the religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution.  This insertion of government as a participant on one side of a debate rather than an umpire in imposing regulations is different from the fights of the 1970s or 1980s, and the arguments of free-market Catholics, while still applicable, need to address this new threat, which combines consumerism and a false individualism with government power.  That is the next front in the battle to preserve both the Catholic view of the person and the American tradition of pluralism and religious freedom, where thinkers like Gregg will serve a critical role.

Editor’s note: The image above is a portrait of Charles Carroll of Carrollton painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1763.

Gerald J. Russello


Gerald J. Russello is a Fellow of the Chesterton Institute at Seton Hall University and editor of The University Bookman. He is also the editor of the 2013 edition of Christopher Dawson’s Religion and Culture from Catholic University of America Press.

  • PiusFan

    One can only be shocked by the mindset put on display here by Gregg and Russello, to the extent that Russello agrees with Gregg.

    Church teaching, truths and values are not grounded in distaste for bourgeois society, nor should those truths be rejected because of some grubby materialism that marvels at an alleged unprecedented prosperity. Long tradition of Western liberty from the Church? Since when? Where is Thomas Aquinas’ summa on secularized liberty? Or Suarez? Or Bellarmine?

    The Church has officially condemned the Americanist heresy under Pope Leo XIII and has on numerous occasions condemned the separation of Church and State as a grave evil in our official magisterial teaching. It has also condemned all forms of liberal economic organization that do not incorporate due regard for Church teaching and values, treat labor as little more than just another input commodity, and dismiss important notions like a just, living wage.

    Serious treatment of Church-State relations and economic matters must be rooted in the total corpus of authentic Church teaching, not an eradication of our classical teaching for a selective reading based solely on questionable post-1960 statements. The apparent paucity here of serious treatment of Catholic teaching and values championed by the magisterium from 325 to 1955 is the telltale sign that this is simply another screed soaked in doctrinal revisionism.

  • R.W. Boehm

    Let us not forget that the so-called religious liberty cherished by most Americans-the issue of which is pluralism-is not the blessing imagined, but is a sin condemned by the Church (before Vatican II, of course). The sons of the enlightenment were and still are aware that the multiplicity of religious sects prevents any unified opposition to their perverse worldview of a NWO.

    R.W. Boehm

  • TheodoreSeeber

    The ” licitness of a robust free market” is a phrase you won’t find anywhere in actual Church documents on the topic.

    Unless of course, by “robust free” you mean “regulated and limited” by the Church.

    Liberty ONLY makes sense when it is a secondary value to Life and Morality. Liberty must be the freedom to do what is right, and must be opposed when it becomes license to do what is wrong.

    • Adam__Baum

      What great moral principle is served by a government that involves itself in the design of toilets and light bulbs?

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Genesis Chapter 2, obviously.

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  • Alecto

    You do realize that “Tea Party Catholic” is an oxymoron?

    • Augustus

      Man, Alecto, you really got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning!

      • Alecto

        Telling it like it is. Catholics are as familiar with liberty as Stalin was with restraint.

        • Adam__Baum

          Why are you here again?

          • Alecto

            Why are you?

            • Adam__Baum

              I already know why I’m here.

          • slainte

            Everyone is welcome here. Alecto, you are an important member of this forum community as is Adam_Baum and your collective intelligent, well reasoned and nuanced responses to many articles and posters have provided clarity for many. I hope you will both reconcile, put aside past differences, and continue to participate.

        • PiusFan

          We’re not suppose to be familiar with modernist notions of liberty.

          • Alecto

            Problem is, you’re not familiar with any notions of liberty, modernist, or ancient! The Catholic mind is more attuned to slavery. I think most Catholics prefer being told what to think and what to do to absolve themselves of any responsibility.

            • PiusFan

              We tradtional-minded Catholics prefer following what God has revealed as His will as mediated through the Church, than half-baked modern liberal theories that in varying degrees lack concord with our nature and our supernatural destiny.

              We’re quite familiar with the errors you proclaim. And it’s not just Catholics. I dare say that the best of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers would have nothing to do with these ideas. As was derisibly stated in Plato’s Republic “he’s all liberty and equality”.

            • Adam__Baum

              How the he-two sticks would you know what Catholics think?

  • Eric S Giunta

    How unfortunate that Mr. Russello sloppily and lazily confuses libertarianism with libertinism and confuses government with the state. A Catholic absolutely can be a libertarian, even an anarchist, while subscribing to what is essential to Catholic social teaching.

    • Adam__Baum

      Perhaps there’s a distinction, but to the average “card-carrying” libertarian, they are libertines. A significant portion think that legalizing pot and prostitution are public policy priorities.
      I remember some years ago the late Harry Brown(e?) the LP candidate for President promising as a first course of action the repeal of drug laws. I found that disordered and disingenuous, since the rule of law doesn’t allow for the lawlessness of repeal by executive fiat.

      • Eric S Giunta


        Not shoving human beings into cages — and threatening them with death if they do not submit to such kidnapping — because they consume a certain vegetable is absolutely a moral priority for libertarians, which does not imply libertinism one bit, anymore than support for religious freedom signifies atheism.

        A president is also well within his rights to refuse to enforce any law he sees fit — it’s called “executive discretion”. The ultimate arbiters of when such discretion is being abused is Congress, who can impeach the President, or the people, who are free to deny him re-election.

        • Adam__Baum

          So you are going to tell me cannabis is a vegetable?
          As a prudential matter, this was frivolous. Not being allowed to gwet high is hardly as much of an imposition on one’s liberty as the growth of the IRS, the NSA, etc. It was analogous to telling a cancer patient, he’d schedule a mole removal ASAP.

          • Eric S Giunta


            Of course cannabis is a vegetable, i.e., a plant, and it is profoundly immoral to shove a human being into a cage, and to kill him if he resists, for his nonviolent consumption of it. This might not seem a big deal to you, but to many conservative Americans it is, especially those who have worked in or with minority communities, whose members are disproportionately subject to state-sanctioned kidnapping and murder over the matter — it’s also a huge deal for tens of thousands of sick people, who have to take medicinal cannabis in secret, or face the same brutal consequences.

            Some of us don’t consider this a “prudential” matter at all. We admit that Catholics are allowed to disagree with this as far as our Church’s orthodoxy is concerned, but we believe Catholics who do advocate the illegalization of nonviolent behavior are acting contrary to the Gospel and its (theo)logical implications.

            • PiusFan

              Catholics who advocate outlawing nonviolent behavior are acting contrary to the Gospel?? Good grief, man. You’ve just about written out of the Church every pope we’ve every had, including even the most recent ones.

              • Eric S Giunta


                On matters upon which there is no definitive Catholic teaching, Catholics are allowed to subscribe to any of a number of available ideological positions, and obviously when he does so it’s because he believes the opinion he holds is more compatible with the Gospel than a contrary one. That doesn’t mean I write those who disagree with me out of the Church. I just believe they’re wrong . . . or else I wouldn’t disagree with them! 🙂

                • PiusFan

                  It is not a legitimate matter of opinion to believe that outlawing any kind of non-violent behavior is acting contrary to the Gospel. It is an anti-Catholic error.

                  • Eric S Giunta

                    Oh, because PiusFan has dogmatically defined it so?

                    • PiusFan

                      No, because it’s what the Church teaches. Homosexual marriage can and should be outlawed. Prostitution can and should be outlawed. etc.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      The Church does not “teach” that sodomy or prostitution should be outlawed. A Catholic may believe they should be, and a Catholic may believe they shouldn’t be.

                      Of course, it depends on what one means by “outlawed.” Within private property, or a voluntary association, all sorts of nonviolent behavior can be outlawed without violating the non-aggression principle.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Never dealt with a “voluntary” homeowners association, have you?

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      Homeowners Associations are actually prime examples of governments which are not states because they don’t violate the non-aggression principle. They are founded and perpetuated on true social contracts.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Like I’ve said, you’ve never dealt with these petty little tyrants.
                      You don’t understand the concept of volutantary. For something to be voluntary, it requires freedom of entry and EXIT.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      That all depends on the terms of your contract. Your homeowners association is founded purely on the basis of private property and contract. No tyrant assumed ownership of property that already belonged to someone else. A society isn’t involuntary simply because you don’t consent to all of its individual rules.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Idiot! THe terms of your contract don’t mean squat if you have no recourse for adjudication and enforcement and the tyrant isn’t limited.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      All those sorts of things are spelled out in whatever agreement you signed on to when you joined the association. If you don’t like it, you’re free not to join.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You are not free to join, you aren’t free to exit, you are not free to seek the right of due process for an independent tribunal in the event the HOA fails to observe the terms or engages in mal or misinterpretation. It’s majoritarian tyranny.
                      You can stammer how this is freedom, but you clearly lack an informed, mature perspective. You don’t care about anything but pot.

                    • PiusFan

                      Even if we approach the matter that outlawing these is simply a legitimate option, this flies in the face of your earlier assertion:

                      “but we believe Catholics who do advocate the illegalization of nonviolent behavior are acting contrary to the Gospel and its (theo)logical implications.”

                      Here you say I don’t even have the option of outlawing, I am acting contrary to the Gospel.

                      This simply won’t fly. The Church has been very clear through it’s history that this is an indifferentist non-start.

                      The state has the power of the sword, please read the NT. And it can be wielded without the consent of the scoundrel who is breaking the law. And the law can licitly extend to the inculcating of virtues, morals, and the divine law.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      The problem with simply regurgitating phrases and soundbites, from the Scriptures or from the Summa or from papal documents, is that such parroting often masks a philosophical laziness and reluctance to explore the meanings of our terms. It also avoids the elephant in the room: that the Church *can* and *does* err in her non-definitive teaching, and that teaching needs to be scrutinized on its merits, not simply on the authority of those propounding it.

                      Yes, I believe the initiation of force is objectively a sin, though not necessarily formally so, since the Church has not pronounced on this subject in a definitive manner so Catholics are permitted to follow their consciences and subscribe to the non-aggression principle or reject it outright.

                      This is not indifferentism. I don’t confuse the state with civil society, and I don’t propose that individuals or their associations should be morally indifferent. How virtue is to be inculcated and how it is to be opposed are matters of prudential judgment, except I insist nonviolent evils must be opposed nonviolently; I also add the qualifier that voluntary associations are certainly at liberty to punish or prevent nonviolent vice through force is the person has consented, a head of time, to be so bound by such punishments. For example — and this is just one out of a myriad possible examples — in a free society, a homeowners association could choose to outlaw all sorts of nonviolent vices among its members, and punish them with appropriate sanctions. This wouldn’t violate the non-aggression principle, since the one joining this voluntary association would know and consent to the rules of its governance before joining it.

                      It’s in no way morally “indifferentist” to insist that governments are subject to the same moral rules as the individuals who establish it and make it up. The fact that the mainstream of Catholic (indeed, world) thought does not appreciate this does not make it untrue. It just shows how powerful centuries of brainwashing and conditioning can be.

                    • PiusFan

                      Sorry, Eric, the staggering anti-Catholic nature of your beliefs and writings simply is astonishing. However, non-indifferentist you are in non-governmental matters with regard to morals doesn’t change the non-Catholic nature of this in the least.

                      You actually seem to say that the Church has spent centuries brainwashing the masses, while, apparenlty, we’re supposed to believe that after 2,000 years, Tom Woods, Ludwig von Mises, and Lew Rockwell have finally uncovered the true essence of Catholicism that has been ignored, missed, and corrupted by terrible popes and prelates for centuries on end. This view of the world doesn’t even qualify for a comic book version of the faith.

                      The Church has been crystal clear that government is to pursue the common good and inculcate true belief and morals in society to facilitate our divine and moral ends. It absolutely can use force, and doesn’t require the consent of any outlaw to do so, up to and including the execution of heretics. There is no way to refute that this is our teaching, which can be demostrated in numerous ways. Artifical Contraception and the Social Reign of Christ are merely 2 teachings that clearly show this. And our teachings here are not in error. Some of the teachings are definitive. Even those that are not are presumed to be true. They can only be in error if there is found concrete evidence to the contrary. You can’t present any, because there is none in these matters. The fact that libertarians don’t agree and don’t like them, and some may be inclined to go back to the NT, apostles and Church Fathers and start re-interpreting any number of writings to contort and distort what the Church has always said they meant is not concrete evidence.

                      One can either be a Catholic or a libertarian. One cannot be both in full measure.

                    • Eric S Giunta


                      I don’t accuse the Church of brainwashing people, I simply insist she’s wrong — or not entirely correct — in failing to catch up to modern political philosophy, make some of the important distinctions libertarian thinkers do, and incorporate that into her teaching. It’s okay, Pius: the Church *can* be wrong, on all sorts of things, and for a very long time. I’m not saying the entire Western classical political tradition is wrong: I’m working from *within* that tradition and correcting what I perceive to be some of its inadequacies. That’s not anti-Catholic.

                    • PiusFan

                      ” It just shows how powerful centuries of brainwashing and conditioning can be.”

                      This clearly must be referencing the Church, even if others are included. The Church is the foundation of Western civilization, and if it has been seriously flawed, it ultimately comes back to Her.

                      The Church does not catch up to modern political philosophy. The Church stands as the immutable basis of God’s eternal truth, and it is the burden of modern political philosophy to correct itself and catch up with the Church.

                      To say that the Church has been or even merely can be wrong on all sorts of things for a very long time is ludicrous nonsense and theological insanity. If this were in any way so, then Catholicism is an error-prone, man-made fabrication that I would not waste one more minute of my time on. And neither should you.

                      I hope someway, somehow, you will at some point please give some serious reconsideration to this.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      The Church *is* error-prone, Pius. Get over it. The Church’s indefectibility does not guarantee she will never teach error, but (among other things) that she is infallible when she defines dogmas. The Church has never dogmatically defined that societies *must* constitute themselves with an involuntary government; the Church has never condemned the non-aggression principle as heresy; she has never even made the distinction between voluntary governments and involuntary ones (i.e., states).

                      Heck, Ireland was a libertarian anarchy for all of its Christian history prior to the Cromwellian conquest. Are you telling me that the Puritan subjugation of that country and the institution of a state (i.e., an involuntary government) represented a victory for Catholic social teaching? Give me a break.

                      Anarchical — not chaotic, or government-less, but state-less — societies have existed all throughout human history. You mean to tell me that a precondition of conversion to Christianity of these societies must necessarily be adoption of the state?

                      Give me a break. I suspect you just don’t know what libertarianism is: you’re conflating it with some species of moral libertinism, relativism, and/or indifferentism, when that’s not what it is at all. Libertarians simply insist that associations are bound by the same moral rules as individuals are: supposing there were no government, you or I would not have a moral right to initiate force against those who do not consent us having dominium over them, and you and I would not acquire that right just because we started wearing fancy clothes and badges and started calling ourselves “The Government.”

            • Adam__Baum

              Dude, you need to lay off the weed, man, especially the paraquat.
              Nobody buys a dime bag to put it in salad, and nobody tokes broccoli.

              Prudence, inter alia, involves putting things in proper order, and the IRS is a far bigger, more intrusive and dangerous menace than any narcotics law. As is the Department of (non) Education or any of the other tentacles of the federal monster. Your grievance should rank way down the line.

              • Eric S Giunta

                I don’t smoke weed. I’m sorry you don’t think this is a big deal. Personally, I think locking a man in a cage for ingesting a vegetable is more heinous a moral crime than spying on his phone conversation, but every libertarian I know opposes this *and* the federal programs you’re referring to. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

                • Adam__Baum

                  “Personally, I think locking a man in a cage for ingesting a vegetable is more heinous a moral crime than spying on his phone conversation,”

                  Never heard of the right to due process, huh?

                  And again, you are rushing the stage III cancer patient to the plastic surgeon for a mole removal.

                  I think taking a man’s home away from him because he’s 85 an unable to scrape together enough lucre to satify the taxman who places an arbitrary value on that home is a bigger deal.

                  You are very confused. I’m talking about priorities, the right to be unaccosted in ordinary life, the right to due process and you put pot ahead of all that. Amazing, just amazing.

                  • Eric S Giunta

                    To me they’re about equally heinous, and I oppose both.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “Personally, I think locking a man in a cage for ingesting a vegetable is more heinous a moral crime than spying on his phone conversation,”

                      “To me they’re about equally heinous, and I oppose both.”

                      You realize that you just contradicted yourself, right?

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      No, I didn’t. The previous conversation referred to the NSA, the second comment referred to the government stealing the property of innocent people because they won’t pay “protection money” for services they haven’t consented to receive, and which they aren’t free to contract elsewhere for.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I specifically said “or any of the other tentacles of the federal monster” of which the NSA is one. Read thoroughly next time.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      I did not address that comment. Duh.

                      Oh, and vegetable illegalization is itself a “tentacle of the federal monster.” Duh.

                      You’re not very smart. You might want to sit intelligent discussion out, my brother.

                    • John200

                      Dear Eric,

                      From where I sit in a combox, it is not possible to decide whether Adam Baum is smart. I cannot; nor can you.

                      On the other hand, one can easily determine that it is not valid to take arguments about a drug and resolve them by equivocating the drug to a vegetable. You are guilty of creating good comedy, but innocent of the charge of creating a valid argument.

                      “Duh” is not an effective answer to Adam’s comments.

                      Try again? You can advance the discussion. After all your goofy comments in this thread, there is still an opportunity…

                      my brother.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      Open up a damn dictionary, and for that matter acquaint yourself with your own church’s philosophical traditions. All plants are vegetables.

                    • John200

                      I know the Church’s tradition. I also know self-immolation; won’t you stop, my brother?

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “duh” is a the universal rejoinder of a dull mind, and one often dulled by narcosis.

                    • John200

                      Yes, that’s a reasonable hypothesis. For what it’s worth, I conclude that you are smart.

                      And Eric Giunta has gone away.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Eric, you aren’t in any position to question anybody’s intellect or maturity, given your obsession with weed.

    • PiusFan

      Not true, Eric. Please show me where classical teaching from the ages says you can be an anarchist or anything resembling the contemporary notion of libertarian.

      • Eric S Giunta

        Are you suggesting that “classical teaching” does not admit of any development whatsoever, that future generations of thinkers cannot realize the full implications of that which was propounded by their illustrious forebearers?

        • PiusFan

          Of course there can be development. Development means organic growth in continuity to what has always been held. Not a license to change what you want and declare it’s a development.

          • Eric S Giunta

            Obviously, Pius. Many libertarians — probably most libertarian intellectuals — ground their political theories firmly within the classical Western tradition of philosophical realism and legal naturalism (i.e., natural law), not the statism of the French Revolution and its descendant ideologies.

            I firmly subscribe to the traditional canons of conservative philosophy: veneration of tradition, belief in human imperfectibility, the natural law, the necessity of government and other traditional institutions to restrain human passions, etc. But precisely as a believer in the natural law, I also subscribe to the non-aggression principle, which is all libertarianism is.

            • HigherCalling

              The non-aggression principle is not enough to base a workable ideology on. In practice, it leaves open too many cracks for the Culture of Death to crawl through.

              Some semi-rhetorical questions: What is the Libertarian definition of liberty? Is it fair to say that Libertarianism is committed to moral neutrality in all matters where individual or group behavior does not violate the rights and freedoms of others? How does Libertarianism connect natural law with moral virtue? For the Libertarian, what provides the bridge between the principles of natural law ethics and proper action?

              What is the Libertarian response to (laws) pertaining to:
              * the legalization of drugs
              * same-sex “marriage”
              * tax-payer funding for artificial contraception
              * embryonic stem-cell research
              * euthanasia
              * free and easy access to pornography
              * abortion
              * the inculcation of character and a unified moral vision
              * tying moral truth to justice and law
              * the Social Kingship of Christ?

              Is a person free if he is allowed to pursue whatever he wishes and act on immoral choices? Can a person’s immoral choices ever remain only his and not affect others? Is a society free when individuals call license liberty? Can a nation whose citizens lack moral virtue sustain real freedom? Can a morally neutral State expect to sustain a morally virtuous citizenry? For the record, I think Catholic Social Teaching (based in objective morality, defending the actual good of the family) and Libertarianism (based in moral neutrality, defending the perceived good of the individual) are incompatible, because Libertarianism separates freedom from moral virtue, which can only end in vice and enslavement (first in individual enslavement to vice, and later by the policing tyranny of the State). Libertarian “freedom” is not actual freedom but an illusion of freedom. Catholic freedom is real freedom, because it is bound by moral truth, based fully in the Truth that makes and keeps us free.

              • Eric S Giunta


                You’re confusing libertarianism with libertinism, just as Rusello apparently does. Libertarianism is *not* a comprehensive moral philosophy, or an action plan for community living, or a prescription on how to form the ideal society. Libertarians qua libertarianism propose only one doctrine: the non-aggression principle. How individuals or societies, within or without their private property, deal with all of life’s challenges (material and moral) is simply not a question libertarianism suggests, though libertarian thinkers discuss and debate all sorts of ways these problems may be tackled without resorting to violence (i.e., the initiation of force).

                I would add that the corporal punishment of nonviolent behavior does not violate the non-aggression principle when one has submitted to such a regime through true social contract (not the fake “social contracts” of modern liberalism).

                • HigherCalling

                  So Libertarianism takes a single wonderful-sounding truth (the non-aggression principle) and elevates it to… what? You say it’s not a comprehensive moral philosophy or political action plan or an ideology (which is what I called it above), so what is it? To me it sounds a little like a heresy, which pulls a single truth from the fullness of truth, and calls it the foundation for some grand new scheme for human flourishing. Every modern philosophy that seeks to supplant the fullness of Catholic truth (which are all forms of Liberalism) does this very thing. As a result of isolating and elevating certain principles, all the replacement philosophies unbalance the balance found in Catholic teaching, and they disturb the proper ordering of Catholic principles. Thus every modern replacement philosophy is both unbalanced and disordered. What principle balances the non-aggression principle in Libertarianism so that individuals and societies do not inevitably fall prey to vice and tyranny? What truth is greater than the non-aggression principle in Libertarianism so that cultures do not inevitably fall prey to the Culture of Death? Bottom line: the greatest freedom for individuals and society is found in recognizing truth and living a life in accord with it. The vehicle for living such a life is found in being taught moral virtue. Being taught moral virtue demands far more than Libertarianism can, or is willing to, deliver.

                  • Eric S Giunta

                    What’s unique to libertarianism is that it takes a moral axiom most civilized and decent people live by, and insists it applies to *all* people and *all* associations, even those whose members wear fancy clothes and badges and call themselves “government.”

                    The irrational exclusion of government officials from the same moral precepts other human beings are expected to follow is a glaring blind spot in the classical Western tradition, perhaps because Western political thinkers were so busy occupying themselves with other questions they didn’t bother to consider this one.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      In short, you’re faulting libertarianism for not being the comprehensive worldview it doesn’t claim to be. That’s like faulting biology for not being able to reveal the doctrine of the Trinity.

                    • HigherCalling

                      That’s why I asked what Libertarianism is. Why bother with Libertarianism when the non-aggression principle (that’s all Libertarianism is, right?) is already found in an actual comprehensive world-view that balances it with equally important principles, and places it in its proper order?

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      Your question makes no sense. Literally, it’s just a bunch of letters and words strung together with no meaning.

                      Libertarianism is not an organization, it’s an idea. Libertarians identify with libertarianism because we are . . .wait for it . . . libertarians. We can’t *not* “bother” with libertarianism because we do, in fact, subscribe to the non-aggression principle, though libertarians disagree on all sorts of things besides.

                      And while the non-aggression principle per se is perfectly compatible with Catholic Christianity, most Catholic thinkers in fact do not subscribe to it, and this is most unfortunate. They adopt an ends-justifies-means approach when it comes to the state — people who wear special clothes and badges, and have a certain DNA, or “democratic” approval, or just happen to be better and murdering, raping, and pillaging than their rivals. Most Catholics believe that the state can use however much violence it wants to terrorize people into some lawmaker’s idea of “good behavior,” so long as the lawmaker believes that in doing so he’s pursuing the common good.

                      Libertarians — Catholic or not — do not subscribe to such superstitions. One man’s nonviolent immorality is not my license to terrorize him into being moral. We believe nonviolent evils need to be opposed through nonviolent means. Most Catholics don’t believe this, but perhaps one day they will, just as they now (for the most part) subscribe to religious freedom.

                    • HigherCalling

                      I’m not talking about “most Catholics” or “most Libertarians.” I’m talking about Catholicism and Libertarianism, and living up to the principle/s each prescribe. The non-aggression principle is compatible with Catholic teaching, but it becomes dangerous (like social justice or the common good or even subsidiarity or solidarity become dangerous) unless it is balanced by other equally important principles and placed in its proper, most useful and life-affirming order. Catholic teaching is both holistic and hierarchical. Libertarianism, apparently, has no need of holism or hierarchy, because it has only one principle to adhere to.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      That’s like saying “Biology has no need of holism or hierarchy, because it has only one principle to adhere to.”

                      Ideas, or disciplines, do not have needs. *People* do.

                      I also disagree with you that true principles become dangerous when applied consistently. If the consistent application of a principle leads to disaster, it’s because that principle isn’t true to begin with. The non-aggression principle is either true or it isn’t. I don’t claim it makes for a comprehensive moral doctrine, just that it’s the sine qua non for all moral behavior.

                      In other words, I believe behavior can be immoral while also being non-aggressive, but it can never be moral while being aggressive.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “In other words, I believe behavior can be immoral while also being non-aggressive, but it can never be moral while being aggressive.”
                      There’s a difference between aggression and bellosity.

                    • HigherCalling

                      Biology is in need of holism and hierarchy, because all scientific disciplines are interrelated, and each discipline must grow from a greater philosophical foundation in order to comply with reason itself.

                      The principle of social justice, like the non-aggression principle, is compatible with Catholic teaching. But when isolated, elevated, and “applied consistently,” it most certainly becomes dangerous, as we can see today in the beliefs and policies of non-thinking social justice liberals. The dangers revealed with isolating and then applying certain truthful principles does not mean that those principles were never true to begin with, but rather that those principles most certainly do damage when they are separated from each other. Or, as Chesterton said, ” When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus, some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus, some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful “

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      It’s not biology that’s in need of those things, it’s *people* (e.g., biologists) who need those things. Biology qua biology cannot possibly pronounce upon or take “hierarchy” and “wholeness” into account.

                      I’m not advocating “separating” virtues from each other, but if a virtue is a virtue it most be applied consistently. If it can’t be applied consistently, it isn’t a virtue at all. There’s no such thing as something that “works” in theory but not in practice.

                    • HigherCalling

                      Sounds like your ultimate, unassailable virtue is the non-aggression principle. The way a thing works in practice is when it works in the proper balance with other equally important things, and in its proper order. Elevating non-aggression to the highest virtue is dangerous. It’s just what social justice liberals do with social justice. Both leave open the door to the Culture of Death. Why not just call Libertarianism Non-aggressionism?

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      “Sounds like your ultimate, unassailable virtue is the non-aggression principle.”

                      Never said or suggested such a thing.

                      “Elevating non-aggression to the highest virtue is dangerous.”

                      Actually, libertarians believe non-aggression is the *lowest* of the virtues, i.e., it is a moral floor, not a moral ceiling.

                    • HigherCalling

                      But no moral principle follows upon that foundation, because, per your definition, non-aggression is all Libertarianism is. Again, why bother, when the same truth is found in a far more solid, more life-affirming, and more comprehensive world-view called Catholicity?

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      a) Catholicism does not, per se, endorse the non-aggression principle. A Catholic is free to subscribe to or reject it; most Catholic thinkers reject it.

                      b) The non-aggression principle is not some arbitrary axiom; it is itself a moral principle. Have you actually studied any libertarian thinkers, several of whom are conservative Catholics or Thomists, or are you going off of media caricatures?

                      c) It’s impossible to subscribe to the non-aggression principle and “not bother” with libertarianism. To subscribe to the non-aggression principle is to be a libertarian.

                    • HigherCalling

                      Eric, you are making less and less sense. If the non-aggression principle is the foundation of this non-comprehensive thing you call Libertarianism, and it is *the* foundation upon which your notion of human freedom and flourishing is based, then it is a false foundation. A true and solid foundation must be based in the fullness of truth, which Catholics find in the very truth of Christ Who makes us free. If it is merely a principle picked from the greater truths found in truly comprehensive philosophies (such as Catholic philosophy), why bother going to such lengths trying to convince Catholics of its wonderful virtuousness?

                      But since you brought up how these notions affect “people” in real life circumstances, let’s compare Catholicism and Libertarianism on two real life issues. We know what Catholic teaching is regarding abortion and euthanasia, and we know why the Church teaches as it does. What is the Libertarian policy answer to the real life issues of abortion and euthanasia?

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      Are you stupid, or just illiterate? In charity, I’d hate to assume you’re maliciously mischaracterizing what I’m writing.

                      I never claimed that the non-aggression principle is “the foundation upon which human freedom and flourishing is based.” Are you reading anything I write before responding to it, or are you responding to pre-conceived notions of what I must be saying, based on the caricatures you’ve read in the works of non-libertarian writers?

                      The non-aggression principle (NAP) is “foundational” in the sense that it’s the most basic of the moral precepts. The NAP is itself based on principles much more basic to it, dumb-ass.

                      Catholic Christianity is itself *not* a comprehensive view of the world; there’s a ton about the world for which the Church has nowhere near a definitive teaching. The Church does have a worldview, and her own foundational principles, which she proposes to the faithful, leaving them free to tease out all their implications, and even to disagree as to those implications, so long as they do not cross the boundaries set by her dogmas.

                      Why go to such lengths to convince idiot Catholics like you of the truth of the non-aggression principle? Because most Catholics *don’t* subscribe to it, just like most Catholics a hundred years ago did not subscribe to the idea of religious freedom. I happen to believe the non-aggression principle does naturally follow from basic precepts of the natural law and of the Gospel, but so far the mainstream of Catholic thought has not gotten the memo. Mainstream Catholic political thinking just presupposes The State’s existence, and it’s right to initiate violence against its citizens if doing so will in fact cultivate the common good — or else this thinking doesn’t bother to make some very basic distinctions between voluntary and involuntary governments, all things which libertarian thinkers — Catholics and non — discuss in great detail. I believe Catholic social teaching has a lot to learn from the likes of Bastiat, Rothbard, Mises, and other philosophers in the libertarian tradition.

                    • John200

                      Dear Eric,

                      Thank you for, “Catholic Christianity is itself *not* a comprehensive view of the world;… ”

                      Well, it is.

                      I am extra pleased to consider, “Why go to such lengths to convince idiot Catholics like you of the truth of the non-aggression principle?

                      I reckon I am an idiot Catholic, so let me reply in five words: because it is not true. The truth is true. Perhaps you see, or can be made to see, the distinction.

                    • Eric S Giunta


                      You obviously don’t know the meaning of the word “comprehensive.”

                    • John200

                      What is obvious to you is false. I know what “comprehensive” means.

                      The level of discourse has descended low enough.

                      Best to you and yours.

                    • HigherCalling

                      I shouldn’t be responding to your last insulting comment, but you really have no idea how intentionally amorphous your replies have been. We’ll leave it up to other readers to decide who is stupid, who’s the idiot, who’s the dumb-ass, and if anyone is illiterate. Anyway, part of our problem is that Libertarians typically never clearly define Libertarianism. If it’s really just the principle of non-aggression, as you stated earlier, we’d have ended the thread much sooner. I’ve asked you nearly 30 questions in our little thread, and you’ve answered exactly one relatively unimportant question directly. So I’ve had to make rational assumptions from the non-answers you’ve given in a futile attempt to evoke some real answers. The real danger today is that many good people, who happen to be Catholic, have allowed their politics to trump their faith. The greater danger is that so many good people, who happen to be Catholic, have allowed their politics to define their faith. My unrealized goal in commenting here was to try to help you see that that’s exactly what Libertarian Catholics do.

                    • John200

                      Dear HigherCalling,

                      Libertarians always think they are smarter than their interlocutors. I say that on a base of a few hundred libertarians. It is rarely true.

                      Your screen name suggests the proper answer to all this. Stick to Roman Catholic faith and stop worrying about life, the afterlife, and what really matters; you will be right about all of it.

                      Give my regards to Eric Giunta.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      They are monists who mistake passion and ferocity for truth.

                    • slainte

                      see more”….When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus, some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus, some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful “….
                      Do you think that this splitting or de-linking phenomena (ie., freedom split from moral virtue) might also explain the dynamic at work among those who advance the so called “Spirit” of Vatican II, another admittedly vague term?

                    • HigherCalling

                      I think this intentional separation of freedom from truth (including from the ultimate Truth) is the cause of every false notion of “liberty” in modern life. Thinking that real, lasting freedom can exist apart from truth (when it is the truth that makes us free), and building societies (and even nations) around that thinking, is an illusion of freedom, which inevitably ends in personal enslavement to vice and ultimately to governmental tyranny. This quote of Chesterton’s is one that is often overlooked, but I believe it to be very profound, and it should be the basis of an entire essay. (btw, Raymond Dennehy has an excellent, if long, essay called ‘The Illusion of Freedom Separated from Moral Virtue’ which puts a dagger in Libertarianism).

                      As to the “Spirit of Vatican II” (which I take to mean various aspects of the liberalization/modernization of the Church), it might help to read the sentences that lead up to this quote. Chesterton says that the modern world has a large and generous heart, but its heart is in the wrong place. “The modern world is not evil; in some ways, the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues.” Such, perhaps, is the “Spirit of VII.” VII may have a generous heart, trying to fit the Church into the modern world, but that spirit has shifted the Church’s heart to the wrong place. A heart in the wrong place functions irregularly, and all manner of falsehood, including false compassion and false order (entropic disorder), are sure to follow. The unintended error of VII is that Catholics seem to believe they were given license to pick and choose from the well of Catholic wisdom, isolating, elevating or even discarding particular virtues, teachings and principles to advance political agendas. This separation of freedom from the fullness of truth has caused an imbalance in the imperative balance of Church teachings and has reordered the proper ordering of Catholic principles. The “Spirit of VII” has essentially turned Catholics into Protestants, which, as Chesterton said of the Reformation, shattered a religious scheme — now for a second time.

                    • slainte

                      Thank you for your perspective. You have advanced my understanding of this sort of deconstruction which appears to have been at work both in the Church as well as the Culture. I will read Raymond Dennehy’s essay.

                      I am reminded of the Canadian Bishops’ Winnipeg Statement of September 27, 1968 which publicly challenged Pope Paul VI by
                      denying the truth of Humanae Vitae’s contraceptive condemnation while absolving lay Catholic compliance with the Pope’s specific teachings on contraception. While referring to their actions as “pastoral”, these Bishops essentially rebelled against the Pope, asserted their own authority over that of the Pope’s, and proceeded to advance the false claim that marital unity and intimacy may be licitly separated from their final purpose of procreation. Freedom for these bishops was sexual license liberated from procreation.

                      While Social Justice was also separated from its Catholic foundational roots; it seems that much of this was the result of well meaning lay Catholics who viewed the government as a convenient source of funding to help the most people possible.

                      The insidious nature of the Winnipeg statement is its purposeful initiation by those who were the successors to the Apostles purporting to act in the Spirit of Vatican II. Their rebellious folly has misled many.
                      Thank you again for your generous response.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      As a young man, I flirted with the idea of libertarianism, until I realized that in a very real way, it doesn’t exist. It’s like a herd of cats.

                    • HigherCalling

                      Indeed. Every time a Libertarian is asked to define Libertarianism it goes unanswered or is answered in vague terms, and every time an opponent of Libertarianism defines it, they are accused of conflating it with Libertinism. That seems to be the default position every time an attempt is made to pin down exactly what it is. No matter, Libertarianism is unworkable and is objectively at odds with Catholicism precisely because it refuses to link freedom with moral virtue.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “What’s unique to libertarianism is that it takes a moral axiom most civilized and decent people live by..”

                      Phrases similar to that are the justification for a whole variety of assaults on persons and property by statists everywhere (especially when they are launching another redistributionist scheme).
                      Custom is neither fixed, nor probitive.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      That comment of yours makes absolutely no sense.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Well I’m sorry you lack the necessary background to have seen it before.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      You’re not making sense. Go take a nap.

                    • John200

                      Dear Eric Giunta,

                      It is not good to claim that a perfectly clear message makes no sense. You might say you don’t understand it, or you disapprove, or you think you can falsify it, or who-knows-what.

                      Your problem is, let’s face it, orthodox Catholics (such as myself and others) see the sense in Adam Baum’s note. So “go take a nap” comes to us as perhaps good advice for yourself, until your interlocutor’s message kicks in and you can respond intelligently.

                      I take naps, rather than broadcast my first response to a stimulus. This expedient makes me look smarter than I am. You could try it.

                      Just a suggestion…. and more honorable than spanking yourself (Plan B).

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      Please explain to me how Adam’s last comment is a cogent response to anything I’ve written. It’s just his version of the unthinking relativist comeback, “You can’t be right, because so-n-so over there also says he’s right; therefore, no one’s right!”

            • PiusFan

              This doesn’t wash, Eric. Any and just about all classical Western thought and tradition holds that the state has obligations beyond the protection of life, property, and legal contracts. It also has a duty to assist in inclulcating truth and virtue into its citizenry and to cultivate their intellectual and moral development toward their proper ends as human beings.

              • Eric S Giunta

                The classical Western tradition, unfortunately, does not — at least in its earliest sources and up until very recently — make any distinction between voluntary and involuntary governments. Both are called “governments” and “states.” I’m very well aware that libertarianism is a relatively recent political ideology, but I believe there are *proto* libertarian strains all throughout the Tradition, and libertarianism just realizes certain premises to their logical conclusion.

                • PiusFan

                  Insofar as contemporary libertarianism runs contrary to what I outlined above, it is at fundamental odds with the Western tradition and what Western civilization should ultimately look like.

                  • Eric S Giunta

                    That’s because you keep confusing libertarianism with libertinism. Libertarianism is not a proposal of “what Western civilization should ultimately look like.” Libertarians, qua libertarianism, simply insist that aggression — i.e., the initiation of force against a human being — is immoral and contrary to human dignity because it violates the natural law.

                    The libertarian, qua libertarianism, does *not* claim that any or every society should tolerate vice, or cannot extricate vice from its midst through all sorts of voluntary mechanisms, including those that resort to force (a man can consent, a priori, to force being used against him for the commission of nonviolent behavior — that doesn’t contradict the non-aggression principle).

                    In other words, libertarians, qua libertarianism, merely propose the means (non-aggression) through which a society must constitute itself, not the ends. To determine the ends, a libertarian needs to resort to principles other than libertarianism, must also consistent with the non-aggression principle.

                    • PiusFan

                      I don’t think I’m confusing libertarianism with libertinism. All authority comes from God, not the people, or their collective will or whatever they do or do not necessarily consent to.

                      Force can be used, subject to prudential judgment and review, to pursue that which is holy, just, and moral. There is nothing in authoritative Catholic thought that says otherwise.

                      The Church has never declared that government can only exercise force to protect life, property, and legal contracts. It has said in innumerable, countless edicts, that governmental force can be used in a multitude of other situations.

                      Also, the Church has condemned the separation of Church and State, and has classically held that the public expression of doctrinal error can be repressed.

                      This is all light years away from any credible conception of libertarianism. If you have not, you should read Chris Ferrara’s “The Church and the Libertarian” For whatever marginally positive elements libertarianism represents as improvement over other political options situated in the current political landscape, at the end of the day, libertarianism is simply another form of the liberalism that has decimated the West in the last several centuries.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      The Church has historically missed the mark on this question, that’s all there is to it. That having been said, she’s laid the groundwork for today’s libertarian thinking. There’s much that is proto-libertarian in the Gospel and in subsequent Catholic thinking. I don’t feel the need, as fas-trads like Ferrara do, to repeat the mistakes of my sainted ancestors. I learn from them and move on.

                    • Eric S Giunta

                      It’s also important to keep in mind that the documents you’re referring to do not make important distinctions between “the state” and civil society or government. In other words, they make no distinction between voluntary and involuntary governments. These all tend to be conflated. Because old habits of thinking, right or wrong, tend to die hard.

                      Statism — the notion that some human beings magically have moral rights that others don’t, because of their DNA or because they’re democratically elected or because they happen to be better than their enemies at raping, murdering, and pillaging — simply cannot be defended logically. Therefore it is wrong, no matter how many popes you get to say otherwise.

                • Adam__Baum

                  One of the best commentaries on not only the novelty, but the cracked foundation of libertarianism.


                  • Carl Albert

                    so you’re referencing Kirk’s analysis of libertarians to validate what? conservatism? this essay precedes the bulk of the Reagan years, the halcyon period for modern conservatives. it lacks the perspective of federal deficit spending and the beginning of government expansion and cheap money that soon followed its writing. indeed, Kirk draws upon classic straw men arguments against libertarianism. he even has the gall to claim libertarians who believe in the constitution and an enduring moral order as “conservative with imperfect understanding of the general terms of politics.” this is weak sauce; but serves to satiate the close-minded and those prone to stereotype.

                    • John200

                      Dear Carl,

                      Libertarians have better sauce than you claim, but their claims are often enough falsifiable. I give libertarians credit for speaking precisely enough to be refuted — that is a useful contribution to political discussions — but the refutations carry mucho weight. One imagines that you, as a well read libertarian, know all that.

                      And!!! I can help you with capitol letters. Perhaps you will try using caps to start your sentences?

                    • Carl Albert

                      sorry, I didn’t know I was being graded!? I believe capital letters are useful, not sure about capitol letters though. your charity is nonetheless appreciated…
                      I was responding to the essay by Kirk which is linked above, not to other commenters. there seems to me a fallacy within conservatism, which I assume you defend since you don’t appear to favor libertarianism. that being, conservatism relies upon the notion that man can craft government (and world order) in God’s image and likeness. and conservatism is willing to do so with the treasure and lives of others, at the tip of a spear (or missile, or rifle, etc.). this is contrary to Catholicism (ref. Pope Francis’s remarks today on war at the Day of Prayer for Syria). my defense of libertarianism on a Catholic site is not intended to engender fans and earn pats on the back, but merely to offer some reason.

                    • John200

                      Who has said to you that man can craft government in God’s image and likeness? Is that a typo?

                      Here is a nice puzzle. That government is best that governs least. But God is not least,….. alright, enough of that.

                      And “capitol” is a typo. The fingers sent it before I looked closely. I am lucky it wasn’t capitall or some such.

                      The reason to start your sentences with a capital letter is for those who have been reading English for 10, 30, 60, or even 70+ years. They were taught, and have come to expect, capitalization as a signal that a new sentence is starting. It is nothing more than a courtesy to the normal reader.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “Who has said to you that man can craft government in God’s image and likeness? ”
                      That is a leftist fantasy. Actually, they believe government is god.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      On the contrary, KIrk was demolishing a fallacy-political syncretism.

                    • Art Deco

                      The article is dated “Fall 1981”. The ratio of the sum of public expenditure (federal, state, and local) on goods and services to domestic product fluctuated within a narrow band over the period running between 1974 and 2008. There was no contextual ‘government expansion’. The Republicans were never successful at reducing this ratio by much, but the only time they controlled both the Presidency and Congress was a run of about five months in 2001 and the four year period running from 2003 to 2007. Even so, effective supermajority requirements in the Senate would have frustrated any major reforms. The institutional set up is bad and does not permit even well-intentioned actors to repair much of anything.

                      I have no clue where anyone gets the idea that ‘cheap money’ was the order of the day after 1980 (one of David Stockman’s idiot whinges, perhaps?). The Federal Reserve managed to re-stabilize prices during a 22 month period in 1981 and 1982 and, bar a brief period in 1989, the country has never since suffered the sort of currency erosion it did during the period running from 1966 to 1982. The economist John Taylor has identified the period running from 1985 to around 2003 as one of ‘rules-based’ monetary policy. He has objected to some of the discretionary actions over the last decade, but Dr. Bernanke’s performance since 2008 has not been bad when you consider some alternatives. The Federal Reserve has been blamed by ‘Austrian’ economists for the housing and securities bubbles, but Fed policy was unremarkable until 2002 and the detachment of housing prices and nominal incomes was already underway in Case Shiller’s ten-city set as early as 1997. As for securities bubbles, you had a jim dandy one in 1928-29, gold standard or no.

                    • Carl Albert

                      is it then your assertion that history will be kind to Greenspan and Bernanke? I don’t see any scenario that rationally depicts this conclusion. during the period 1986 to 2013, federal debt as percent of GDP has increased from just under 50% to now more than 100%. $17 trillion and counting, with greater than $75 trillion in unfunded liabilities. and no collective will to solve problems. what amount of future growth will be necessary to overcome this – not to mention resolving the under-employment and unemployment we currently have?

                    • Adam__Baum

                      The Chairman of the Fed during the Reagan years was Paul Volker, who in fairness was originally a Carter appointee.

                    • Carl Albert

                      Reagan inherited Volcker – he appointed Greenspan (1987)

                    • Art Deco

                      The increase in the ratio of federal debt to domestic product has not been continuous and monotonic. It fluctuates up and down. It has increased rapidly in the last five years. Please recall that that ratio stood at about 0.38 in 2007 and that the federal deficit in the fiscal year concluding in Sept. 2007 amounted to 1.2% of domestic product.

                      To some extent recent increases in debt loads have been a consequence of the recent banking crisis and to some extent the pig-headedness of the president and various factions in Congress. Mr. Reagan’s fiscal policy (arrived at while contending with Congress, which had its own issues) was suboptimal. It does not have much to do with our more recent problems.

                      is it then your assertion that history will be kind to Greenspan and Bernanke?

                      Just what’s gotten into your head to persuade you that these two are responsible for our current fiscal problems, or for bubbles in asset markets, or for ill-conceived banking regulations, or for mass stupidity among mortgage lenders?

                      The Federal Reserve might be faulted for acting in ways that kept the Federal Funds rate too low during the period running from the fall of 2002 to the fall of 2004, but the bubble in the real estate market antedated that and postdated that.

                      Dr. Greenspan in particular might be faulted for lobbying ca. 1998 (and in conjunction with Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin, and Arthur Leavitt, Jr) against proposed regulations to require derivatives to be exchange traded. I believe Dr. Greenspan offered (as a private citizen) some congressional testimony ca. 1984 in favor of changes in banking regulation that came completely a cropper (during the period running from that 1985-94). Dr. Bernanke did not have anything to do with any of that and Greenspan’s had a looong career with successes and failures in it.

                      The collapse in underwriting standards at mortgage lenders had nothing to do with these two. Asset bubbles do not require any conjuring from central bankers. The Federal Reserve does not make fiscal policy.

                      Why look for scapegoats?

                    • Carl Albert

                      is the head coach accountable for his team’s record of wins and losses? absolutely. accountability for failure is more-so critical to leadership than is accountability for success. I NEVER said these two are solely responsible – you projected that upon me. but in their sphere of influence, it’s certainly hard to overlook their results. you cannot rationally claim that Fed policy has not contributed to fiscal recklessness and the fallouts in both housing and household debt.
                      plenty of blame to go around here for certain – but you never answered my question: how are we going to pay for this long-term???

                    • Art Deco

                      How is the director of the central bank analogous to a ‘head coach’? That does not make any sense.

                      Yes, I can rationally claim it, and nowhere in this discussion have you offered a single mechanism (rational or no) whereby anything they did induced mortgage lenders to puke out credit to subprime and alt-A buyers or induced home-buyers to pay prices which had run, by 2006, 40% ahead of nominal incomes.

                      The so-called Taylor rule was respected for 17 years. The violations of it in 2002-04 were less severe than was the case in 1975-76, when there was no housing bubble. We had a securities bubble in 1995-2000 in spite of the Taylor rule (and had one in 1928-29 in spite of having a specie based currency). The housing bubble we did have saw its origin in the largest markets in 1997, not 2002. The Federal Reserve might have followed better policy in 2002-04, but I cannot figure how it is you blithely attribute the disaster to them given the context.

                      Fringe economists have been promoting policy measures like a ‘currency board’ because ‘inflation targeting’ is supposedly ‘disastrous’. This country went for 75 years without a banking crisis absent a gold standard or currency board and it is not hard to locate places where gold standards and currency boards proved to be ain place during authentic disasters, not hyperbolic ones (start with the United States from 1929 to 1933 and Argentina from 1999 to 2004).

                      The Federal Reserve does not make fiscal policy, so I cannot figure how they ‘contribute’ to reckless fiscal policy. You got a complaint about fiscal policy, send it to Congress and the President.

                      The Federal Reserve does purchase issues in secondary markets, but trafficking in debt issues is among the things central banks do. Since they managed to avoid the deflation that was incipient in the fall of 2008 and have maintained a situation where consumer prices increase at the rates which have been common for a generation, I cannot figure what your complaint is.

                    • Carl Albert

                      so the Federal Reserve hasn’t monetized the debt? and fractional reserve lending is good for the dollar? thanks, Art!

                    • Art Deco

                      “Fractional reserve lending” is what is known more colloquially as “banking”, or, more precisely, “deposits-and-loans” banking. It has existed since the early modern period in the Occidental world and since 1792 in the United States.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Perhaps you’ll prefer Ayn Rand’s view of libertarianism:

                      “All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies who are anarchists instead of leftist collectivists; but anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet libertarians combine capitalism and anarchism. That’s worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. Anarchists are the scum of the intellectual world of the Left, which has given them up. So the Right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the libertarian movement.”
                      Ford Hall Forum 1971

                    • Carl Albert

                      Rand’s message on libertarians was not muddled. but didn’t her objectivism betray her among people of faith? you’ll never see me pronounce myself as her acolyte. but let me ask you – in all charity – have you ever read Rand? a time-consuming pursuit – no doubt. however, she did raise some good questions about social theory. in particular, in the introduction to her novel (novella) “Anthem”, I think she makes an astute point re: the perversion of the “common good”:

                      ” “Social gains,” “social aims,” “social objectives” have become the daily bromides of our language. The necessity of a social justification for all activities is now taken for granted. There is no proposal outrageous enough but what its author can get a respectful hearing and approbation if he claims that in some undefined way it is for “the common good.” ”
                      this somewhat echoes Hayek’s critiques of conservatism; in particular its blind spots of the use of state power, and its tendency towards “strident nationalism.”

              • Adam__Baum

                “It also has a duty to assist in inclulcating truth and virtue into its citizenry and to cultivate their intellectual and moral development toward their proper ends as human beings.”

                Well that’s something else the metastatis has failed at. On the contrary, especially in recent times, it is dumbing down the people, operating in a moral and fiscal deficit and assaulting anything that stands in the way of total control.

                Got news for you. The people at elite academies that supply the shock troops of the state aren’t reading that classical literature, they are reading Machiavelli.

  • NormChouinard

    Would not the Catholic principle of subsidiarity lead to the notion that not all interventions are created equal and that government interventions on the local level, while not as good as neighborly intervention, is superior to federal interventions?

    • Adam__Baum

      “is superior to federal interventions?”


      And modern progressivism is built on the “cult of expertise” that doesn’t understand that knowledge doesn’t scale well, because much economic knowledge necessarily involves specialization and an intimate local knowledge, of circumstances, conditions and relationships.

      Modern progressivism is pride ignoring subsidiarity.

      • John200

        Progressivism must fail, the sooner, the better. There is no second possible outcome. It has failed everywhere it has been tried, and has produced dead people on a scale not previously imagined. It is damnable.

        And in 2013 no one should fall for the idiotic progressivism that
        afflicts our politics and distracts us from learning what is going on
        around/in us.

        May God help us to understand the meaning of human freedom. He will do so, if we ask. And listen. And read. And learn.

        None of this is complicated. We make all this harder than it is.

  • Facile1

    Gregg’s approach will lead to nowhere.

    “First he wants to explain how a Catholic can responsibly defend limited government and the free market in accordance with Catholic teaching.”

    The principle of ‘limited government’ is alien to self-interest. The ‘free market’ (ie the cumulative force of ‘free will’) is a democratic force of (human) nature that neither Church nor State can hope to control.

    “Second, he wants to defend the substance of those teachings against both liberal Catholics and other sorts such as libertarians.”

    Liberals pity the poor and libertarians pity the rich. Or should we say, libertarians fear the poor and liberals fear the rich. Whatever, it really boils down to self-pity and self-preservation. The only defense against fear and self-pity is Christian Faith, which is a gift of GOD (and NOT of the Church) to the individual (and NOT to the nation state.)

    “Third, he wants to reconcile Catholicism specifically with the American form of republicanism.”

    It is evident from the “example of Catholics in America”, that Catholicism is NOT reconcilable with the American form of republicanism. The Catholic experience has been one of assimilation, not one of independence and autonomy.

    There is no short-cut to utopia or the Kingdom of God. The Church must resist the temptation to leverage the temporal power of the State. And the State should not be allowed to violate the sanctity of the family and the individual.

    Thus the Lord commands us to LOVE GOD FIRST and go in peace.

    • Carl Albert

      excellent. but disagree with “Liberals pity the poor and libertarians pity the rich. Or should we say, libertarians fear the poor and liberals fear the rich.” the libertarian realizes that a free market will yield excess to some participants more than others. but beyond protecting citizens from force or fraud, the libertarian understands that the state has no role in balancing what the market produces.
      it is vital we don’t conflate economics or political ideology with faith – as faith is so clearly our higher calling.

      • Facile1

        I used to be an avid libertarian (ie the Ludwig von Mises variety, not the Ayn Rand variety) until I became a practicing Catholic.

        Libertarians do not understand ‘free markets’ because they do not understand the historical role the nation state plays in the CREATION of markets. In his opus Human Action, Ludwig von Mises only understood how the nation state constrains markets and not how it creates markets.

        If nation states did not believe in nationalism, can there be a market for the products of the military-industrial complex, terrorism and war?

        If nation states did not believe in population control, can there be a market for contraceptives, abortion, same-sex wedding caterers, and euthanasia?

        If nation states did not believe in capitalism, can there be a market for labor unions, migrant labor, prostitution, child labor and slavery?

        Do not assume a ‘free market’ makes for a ‘free people’ and a ‘free people’ makes for good people. Only God is good.

        If we cannot act on faith in the practical domains of our lives (ie in politics, economics, the sciences, etc.), then we cannot act on FAITH.

        LOVE GOD FIRST and go in peace.

        • Carl Albert

          I understand your clarification and your objection. I do not however believe the state creates the market. if you and I are neighbors in a remote area, and I possess prime pastures for grazing, and you possess cows, then you and I have a market. the state has no role in our exchange of grass for milk. the state may find it has an interest in regulating your dispensing of milk, but it enters our exchange as a third party.
          I do not conflate social/political theory with faith. faith as I stated above, is our higher calling and the root of our morality. freedom to live by faith is what I seek, not affirmation of the state.

          • Facile1

            While the State can create markets that would not otherwise exist, it is not within the temporal powers of the state to affirm FAITH. But the greater and immediate danger lies in the State’s powers to destroy (its threat to life, liberty and the means to make a living). These powers should be limited to the containment of violence ONLY.

            Capital punishment is ALWAYS wrong. If sin (such as blasphemy, apostasy, heresy, adultery, sodomy, prostitution, etc) is NOT accompanied by an act of violence (such as homicidal and suicidal attempts, abortion, assault, paedophilia, rape, spousal and child abuse, etc), it should not be the State’s business to declare sin a crime punishable by containment. Taxes should be limited ONLY to whatever it costs to contain violence.

            One cannot separate the common good from the moral good. Libertarians prefer to leave that as a judgment call of the ‘free market’. This is the reason why the libertarian worldview is not reconcilable with the Catholic worldview.

            “Freedom” is NOT “free will”. Catholics recognize “free will” as GOD’s GIFT to each of His children. Catholics also recognize “free will” as GOD’s willingness to suffer us to reject HIS perfect love. This rejection of GOD is sin. And sin has consequences, one of which is the loss of freedom to all humankind.

            A “market” is the cumulative effect of “free will”. And when the participants (ie consumer, producer, labor, the nation state, etc) in the “market” freely choose sin; the loss of freedom in the “market” is a necessary consequence.

            Our laws should be made more simple than what they are. And so should our taxes be.

            This is not a problem if we “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Read Matthew 22:19-21)

            But this is only possible if we LOVE GOD FIRST and go in peace.

        • Adam__Baum

          “Mises only understood how the nation state constrains markets and not how it creates markets”

          I would suggest to you that the state can protect markets with such things as sound currency, rational contractual enforcement, a fair constabulary and other things.

          However, The state, lacking both ownership and capital contraints, when it attempts create markets, ill inevitably create markets that are deformed.

          A perfect example is Obama’s “green energy”, where billions of taxpayer dollars were expended on companies that were questionable (some even worse than questionable-Solyndra received a “going concern” qualification from its auditor) in every way but one-they were heavily involved in political patronage. We should be glad they are going belly-up, else we would have another unsustainable industry feeding at the public trough.

          • Facile1

            History has shown that a nation state’s power to “protect” its citizens from dangers within and abroad is largely fiction. The more immediate and real danger is the nation state’s threat to the life, liberty, and property of the individual citizen (who breathes, acts on faith and makes a living).

            Therefore, I believe government intervention should be limited to the CONTAINMENT of violence only (which would include “rational contractual enforcement” and “a fair constabulary”, but NOT the issuance of fiat currency. The latter can be dealt with in other ways.) Capital punishment is always wrong. And the power to tax is the power to destroy.

            Otherwise, I agree with you. Thank you.

  • Europe is the faith

    It is worth remembering here how Pope Benedict -the biggest intellectual de Church has had in years-, in one of his last speeches before he left, put «financial-deregulation» at the level it deserves to be, almost at the same level than terrorism.

    The Church advocates a regulated and controlled economy, specially in relation with finance and banks. I recommend people reading those who were the first and foremost liberals in world’s history: the School of Salamanca (mainly jesuits). It’s always a pleasure reading, for instance, Padre Juan de Mariana and his reflections about trade, the economy and the state. They were true liberals in the long and real tradition of the Catholic Church.

    From an european perspective, there are, at least, two things which are difficult to understand about the american mainstream catholicism: 1) The love for guns through protecting a seemingly invented divinely right to bear them, 2) This love for anarchist/libertarian ideas, trying whatsoever to fit them in the Church’s tradition.

    Do not forget the real essence of the Church.

    Regards from Spain.

    • Art Deco

      So what? Is anyone who invokes Social Teaching ever going to contend with the purveyors of actual public policies, common-and-garden economists, or social theoreticians of the stripe of Hayek? You all seem to be talking to acolytes of Ayn Rand, Herbert Spencer, or Murray Rothbard.

      • Europe is the faith

        As an example, I can cite three things I find weird, if not disturbing: 1) Paul Ryan, who is regarded as a «devout Catholic», finds extremely interesting the writtings of Ayn Rand, saying that these have even had a big influence in his intellectual development. I dare to say that even Marx is a far less harmful reading for a Catholic than Rand! 2) Catholics embracing libertarian/austrian ideas -that’s no problem- while saying that these are the true ideas a Catholic should follow -are we crazy?-. «Give Caesar what it’s from Caesar». In some way I see with this articles something simular to what happened in Latin America with Liberation Theory. I guess won’t pass much time since the current Pope -an impressive man- put things clear. 3) The Catholic Church has always, I repit: always, support the worker’s right to organize. That’s a key aspect within the Church’s social teaching. You can check this interesting paper: http://www.usccb.org/upload/Primer-labor-Catholic-social-teaching.pdf . The Church and all those who are part of it have a personal and moral duty to fight injustices; and a big injustice from our most recent times is «casino capitalism». That’s why I don’t really see why Catholics have to support politicians who benefit the rich, the powerful (Obama seems to be that is this kind of politician). America during the XX century had such an outstanding character as Dorothy Day. She is an example.

        For some reasons (here in Spain usually happens too), Catholics usually are white, serious, hard-working, middle-class/upper-class people. Even so, that does not mean that Catholicim must change what it certainly is: a religion for/of the poor, the weak, the sinners. So is, and so has to be. We cannot do an inverse of what the marxists from South-America did with Liberation Theology. Hopefully this Pope seems to be eager to return to the basics.

        Tenga un buen día.

        • Art Deco

          Yes, Ryan takes an interest in Rand’s fiction. Ryan is not in thrall to Rand and the actual public policies he advocates are the sort of incrementalism you see in the Republican Party, so what is your point?

          ‘Right to organize’ what? Mutual aid association to form insurance pools and credit unions and put lawyers on retainer are one thing, promotion of industrial sclerosis and the ruin of labor markets is quite another. In this country, unions get the majority of their members from the public sector and natural monopolies. Public sector unions are predatory rent-seekers, no ifs, ands, or buts. This pretty little thing runs the Chicago teacher’s union,


          You are writing from Spain, a country where the ruin of labor markets exceeds that of any other country in the occidental world?

          • Europe is the faith

            Yes, I’m writting from Spain, a country that nowadays has the highest unemployment rate in the developed world. A country with a nefarious political class. One that is suffering the most. A total mess, despite our wonderful beaches, food and history. Spain is also a country whose political centre is the left; that’s the first flaw. A left with a profound historical hate for religion (check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Terror_(Spain) ). This is also a country whose two biggest and most powerful unions are marxist-oriented. But, does this invalidate my thesis? Not at all. I would like to see a big and powerful Catholic-rooted movement too; like those who existed here thirty years ago fighting for the workers’ dignity. A worker movement who could fight injustices and help the Catholic worker, as Dorothy Day did. Socialists have no monopoly over Unions! Thinking this is just a first mistake.

            So my first opinion sounds as follows: a good Catholic cannot oppose unions by principle (some Unions may be awful, yes; like those I’ve cited from Spain). Neither has to oppose the state by principle. The Church has always induced people to organize themselves and fight the state when it went against the most basic principles or against the powerful/rich when they tried to impose unfair conditions. In fact, I would say that we agree about this issue. I do not claim that «all» Unions are good; I better claim that «some» unions are necessary.

            My humble opinion about this issue, talking as an external observer, is that the GOP is wrong on (some) ideas. Ryan cannot win just saying: «let the private sector to do everything. Let’s get to end with the state and all these suckers from the state». Apart, I’ve never understood how can someone blame the state for all the bad and then trying to increase the military.

            • Art Deco

              I suggest you not caricature Ryan and I will not caricature any random pol from Galicia or the Canary Islands.

              A mess of kibbitzing:

              1. Restore the peseta;

              2. Withdraw from the EU; agree to participate in a customs union, a military alliance, a frontline customs and border police, but not anything which compromises Spanish sovereignty.

              3. Undertake withholding of general income taxes through the paycheck, but end the use of payroll taxes on employers and employees.

              4. Enact a better labor code:

              a. Leave the superintendency of the actuarial soundness of pension funds to the banking-finance-insurance inspectorate of the central government.
              b. Discourage company pensions in favor of portable retirement benefits – mandatory savings clips which can be invested in a number of licensed annuity programs, indemnity programs, &c. some of which may be operated by worker’s mutual aid societies.
              c. Phase out old-age and disability transfers in favor of portable retirement programs supplemented by a negative income tax.
              d. Retain straightforward income transfers for unemployment compensation and for a small corps disabled all their lives. Limit the duration of unemployment compensation to nine months.
              e. Sort responsibility for occupational health and safety regulation: extractive industries, chemicals and oil refining, nuclear materials, shipping and transportation, and multiregional and multi-national enterprises to the center; all else regulated by the regions.
              f. Go to school with Kip Viscusi and others on the utility of given health and safety regulations.
              g. Sort responsibility for the determination of collective bargaining rights: multi-regional and multi-national enterprises to the center; all else to the periphery.
              h. Recharter extant unions as mutual aid societies; limit collective bargaining to company unions organizing incorporated enterprises; prohibit collective bargaining in the public sector.
              i. Sort responsibility for general labor standards: multi-national and multi-regional enterprises to the center, the rest to the periphery.
              j. Place the following obligations on employers (failure of which to perform is a cause of civil action):
              –Prohibition on hiring aliens without work permits.
              –Prohibition on hiring those known to be drawing full disability benefits
              –Prohibition on hiring youths under 10
              –Prohibition on hiring youths under 14 unless they be 1st, 2d, or 3d degree relations of one of the proprietors (of an unincorporated enterprise)
              –Prohibition on hiring juveniles without parental consent.
              –Mandatory purchase of workmen’s compensation insurance
              –Mandatory grants of leave time (illness, spot personal time, vacation, public holidays, family care).
              –Structuring of wage schedules so that premium wages are paid to hourly workers for daily and weekly overtime.
              –Respect a trivial minimum wage – 0.80 euros per hour or a salary of 120 euros per month

              –Proper accounting of payroll, so that all the employees’ tax withholding and pension contributions are correctly calculated and sluiced.
              –Grant of bonuses to each employee derived from corporate earnings (for employees of corporations).
              –Due warnings (16 weeks in advance) of changes in compensation schedules and formulae.

              –Not to engage in extortionate behavior or to permit supervisors to engage in such: e.g. attempting to compel the co-operation of employees in schemes which are unlawful, tortious, or licentions.
              –Compensation of departing employees for unused leave balances.

              –Truthful reporting to the Labor department of reasons for discharge or departure.
              –Nothing else. Allow employers to hire, promote, demote, and discharge according to whatever criteria they care to use.

              5. Better circulation in the civil service. Emphasize timely administration (within 60 days) of civil service examinations for filling vacancies. Have administrative hearing examiners do quick-and-dirty reviews of demotions, fines, forced transfers, and dismissals looking for whistle-blowers and a half-dozen other potential targets for abuse. Otherwise let a trio in a chain of command dismiss employees at will.

              6. Reduce legal immigration to 0.12% of the extant population per annum. Require written and oral proficiency in Castillan before issuing an immigrant’s visa.

              7. Promote comparatively brief fee-for-service vocational programs as the default mode in tertiary schooling and voucher funded vocational programs as the default mode in secondary schooling. Do not over-invest in universities and academic high schools.

              8. Wait around 15 or 20 years for your labor market to recover. Sclerosis tends to be self-feeding.

              • slainte

                Good points. Buena suerte a Espana.

              • Europe is the faith

                Very good points. Don’t you want to send your CV to Mr. Rajoy? Maybe he could hire you as an adviser (well, he can’t; you don’t have «political ties» with the ruling class…). Yet I think a point comes before each of the ones you have cited:

                1. Find politicians eager to reform.

                The Spanish political system is probably one the most dysfunctional and inefficient in the world. We have a system similar to that of our lovely cousins the italians, where a clown, Berlusconi, has been in power for who knows how much time. Here nepotism and corruption is so extended that seems to be something systemic, accepted, even «normal» (sorry, I think I’m being a bit tough with it). When I see the tax system you have in the US I think: «am I in an economic heaven?».

                My guess is that all you points can only be achieved if, and only if, the EU ousts our current political cast and puts as head of government some kind of «wise circle of reformers and technocrats».

                Apart from that, I mostly agree with all the points. The first one about the peseta is key, no doubt. You cannot be in the same ship than Germany. Such an old catholic nation with such an impressive past cannot be forever in dire straits, can it?

                Don’t worry about caricature Galicia or the Canary Islands (two very beautiful places, indeed). We took the situation with humor… and a glass of wine.

                • Art Deco

                  Well, it’s your home.

                  I tend to think that corruption and nepotism are not such a problem except that they introduce uncertainty into the realm of regulatory enforcement.

                  A more serious problem is that there are elongated transition costs in fixing an economy and vested interests who benefit from the way business is done now, not to mention members of the broad public who fear what deregulation might mean for them. Chile instituted a very successful economic liberalization, but it took 11 years before the benefits started to flow big time. The British labor market suffered severe injuries during the period running from 1979 to about 1986, with years of jobless growth. It took about 15 years for it to recuperate.

                  The big problem with EU imposed technocrats is that they will likely work to retaining the Euro, and Spain needs devaluation and therapeutic inflation. Then there are all the other affronts to democratic practice in the EU. You put all that effort into formal decentralization ca. 1979 only to put yourself under the thumb of pests, operators and control freaks living in Belgium. (The analogue to the EU in this country is our contemptible appellate judiciary).

            • Adam__Baum

              “So my first opinion sounds as follows: a good Catholic cannot oppose unions by principle”

              Oppose what? The compulsory membership, the investiture of plenary bargaining power, the misuse of dues to to enrich their officers or influence politics (often for causes that are objected to by the membership), the use of their bargaining power to insist on wages and conditions that have proven ruinious to enterprises or whole industries.

              I support the right of people to associate freely to support their mutual interest. I shoudn’t support much of what has attended unionism in America which has been to organize against others.

              You want to see the effects of untrammelled union power? See the feral dogs taking over what was Detroit.

        • Adam__Baum

          “Paul Ryan, who is regarded as a «devout Catholic», finds extremely interesting the writtings of Ayn Rand”
          Paul Ryan is a politician.
          I’m extremely interested in the writings of Albert Einstein, so what?
          Would you be as disturbed if he was reading Rosseau, Voltaire Marx, Hegel or Darwin.
          Rand was a bit of a loon, uncharitable and absolutist, but not founder of any school of thought that has as it’s legacy the death of millions.

      • Adam__Baum

        Hayek, like all men erred on occasion. However, he operated from the two principal propositions. The first is that (economic) knowledge does not “scale”, in fact it is lost. Quite without intending to do so, he provided the reason for subsidiarity.
        “common-and-garden” economists, on the other hand, are often idiot savants (Paul Samuelson and his decades long defense of the USSR comes to mind) who never see any limit to the knowledge, benificience and incorruptabililty of the state. They are idolaters.

    • Adam__Baum

      It’s a little difficult to trust you “Europe is the faith”, (especially with that seething eurocentricity pseudonym”.
      How’s regulation going for you in Spain since the champions of regulation took over? The first thing they did was legalize same-sex marriage, then lead you into a sovereign debt crisis.
      The problem with statists is they want to regulated and control everything but their false god, the state.

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  • Nasicacato

    This book seems to show real promise (haven’t read it yet). It seems to reject both the dead end of socialism and the, now more insidious, capitalism/consumerism/individualism that leaves so many of us begging for state intervention (except where it will cut into our profit margin). What a shame so many of the comments degenerated into arguments about legalizing pot, libertarianism and a sort of knee-jerk need to state that the American form of gov’t isn’t divinely sanctioned (as if the rule of this or that descendant of some thousand year old barbarian plunderer was). We really are our own worst enemies sometimes. Grow up.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    This doesn’t do it for me. A proper defense of freedom needs to include the defense of the freedom to do evil, as well as the freedom to do good.

    The secular definition of freedom is simply not equal to the Church’s definition of freedom- the sons of the enlightenment are indeed the sons of perdition.