In his post Conspiracy, Subsidiarity, and Zombie Economics, Morning’s Minion at Vox Nova takes a welcome critical look at our blog. He was provoked by its name into taking issue with the claim of compatibility of Catholic teaching with libertarian political philosophy. Excellent! That is just the sort of conversation this blog was intended to bring about, and why it was given a controversial word invention as its name.
MM equates libertarianism per se with individualism, specifically that which His Holiness Pius XI condemns with his Twin Shipwrecks metaphor as “what is known as ‘individualism’.” But, to our disappointment, MM does not elaborate on this, so we are left with a bald, unsupported assumption that what he (Morning’s Minion) means when he uses the word “individualism” is the same as what His Holiness meant by the phrase “what is known as ‘individualism’ ” (the pope put the word in quotes), and also the same as what we mean by the word “libertarian” when we conjoin it with Catholicism. That is hardly a fair scholarly assumption, let alone a charitable one, and we maintain that it is off the mark.
He claims that “There is no such thing as a ‘Catholibertarian’ “… obviously we do not agree! 🙂 Perhaps he has failed to look at the component of the neologism “Catholibertarian” which is aligned with Catholicism. He claims that libertarianism is “heretical” but as we said above he confuses libertarianism with the individualism as condemned by Pope Pius XI. While we contend that the word “Catholic” has a fairly consistent, well-defined meaning (the Church has been drawing distinctions between true believers in Christ and heretics for almost the entirety of Her long history), the word “libertarian”, especially when used as the suffix of “Catholibertarian”, is quite loose and flexible in its application. Libertarianism does not necessarily promote unfettered individualism, and any assumption that we promote unfettered libertarianism is a false one. While we do not fault anyone for making that assumption (indeed, we have almost just about invited such an assumption as a way to get an interesting conversation going), we will always point out the mistake. There are varying applications of the word libertarian and we believe that MM too rigidly pigeon-holes us into a heretical category by his insufficiently flexible understanding of that word.
Any philosophy that goes by the name “Libertarianism” will at least be based on intuitive the belief that there should be a limited amount of government intervention in both the economy and our personal lives. Defining those limits is a matter in which individual libertarians may differ significantly. Libertarianism does not necessarily imply that there should be absolutely no government intervention whatsoever. That would be anarchism, not libertarianism. Some who claim to be libertarians may believe in eliminating the role of government entirely, but there is a wide range of beliefs along the libertarian spectrum.
Libertarianism is unfairly reputed to be uncharitable. Libertarianism per se does not eschew charity, but it reminds people that charity, as such, cannot be coerced. Libertarians are for charity of the heart, the person’s choice to give out of charity rather than an excessive government role in forced charity. Forced charity is not charity at all. An excessive amount of government taxation used to fund a glut of failed social programs as we have today takes away the individual’s freedom to choose to be charitable responsibly.
At this point in the conversation we have decided to edit the text where we define the term that serves as our blog’s title in order to help people avoid the sort of understandable and innocent confusion into which Morning’s Minion has fallen. Here is our new, edited description of what constitutes a Catholibertarian:
The word Catholibertarian is a self-explanatory neologism invented by Kevin T. Rice, co-founder of this blog with his wife, Teresa Rice of Teresamerica. A Catholibertarian is someone who accepts both the Catholic faith and traditional Libertarian principles of limited government but not unfettered Libertarianism which hurts the poor, and which the Catholic Church condemns. As it is uncommon to find two Libertarians who agree on very much, there is a wide room for difference of opinion and degree of commitment to at least the latter part of this composite.
Moving on, Morning’s Minion says that claims of Vox Nova holding “heretical” views are unsubstantiated. That is why Teresa alternatively labelled them as quasi-heretical beliefs. (Morning’s Minion himself does the same with our embrace of the term “libertarian”). Vox Novans have clearly aligned themselves with a big government philosophy which is also aligned with Socialism, Communism, and Marxism. These types of economic philosophies are not ordered to the common good. These economic systems violate the common good. Socialism, Communism, and Marxism have been condemned by the Church throughout Her modern history. Here are some instances where Vox Novans have not condemned but in fact been sympathetic to socialism and put it in a positive light – here, here, and here. Henry Karlson thinks that no sovereign state or at least the United States has no right to secure its borders and demand that people come here via legal means, even though the Catechism points this out as being a legitimate demand for a State. In his folly Karlson equates wanting to enforce the rule of law with policies coming directly out of the Soviet Union. Karlson sure does like to cling to those extremes! Morning’s Minion derides Father Corapi’s attack on socialism, claiming that he is quoting Rerum Novarum “out of context” but fails to support that characterization by providing even one example of a misuse of the text that could be corrected by contextual cues.
Rerum Novarum is as strongly worded a condemnation of socialism as any that has ever been written, and in our reading of it (which is admittedly open to [reluctant] correction), there is not much ambiguity in Pope Leo XIII’s use of that word, nor has there been a definitively significant change in the meaning of that words in the 120 years that have elapsed since RN was written and the present day that would be sufficient to excuse the promotion of principles and philosophies that still fall esentially into that category by Catholics today. In any event, if the history of the 20th century makes anything clear, it is that all applications of that philosophy have been utterly calamitous and disastrous failures every time they have been applied on a Statewide scale.
– By Kevin and Teresa