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Catholicism v. Libertarianism

Today, Michael Sean Winters offers his impressions in National Catholic Reporter on last Tuesdays conference at Catholic University's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. He admits that no libertarian panel members were there and luckily one of the panelists mentioned that there were such things as left libertarians (I am one of those, by the way). He pointed out that libertarians and Catholic social justice scholars talk past eachother - with the Church focused on evangelization. (I can assure you that libertarians have no such concern - although I do have a chapter in my book deals with God, skip to the end for the relevant paragraph). Here is MSW's essay, which you should read before mine. I will deal with Part II on Monday. My comments follow:

Professor Schneck is correct - there is a libertartianism no the left - although hard core libertarians work on both the left (social liberty) and the right (economic liberty). There is nothing in it about evangelizing Christianity, because it is not a religious philosophy. In general, libertarianism is a philosophy that rejects force or theft. For some that means no taxation is allowed, with the exception of land value taxes which are spent on a citizen dividend that each person may spend as they please. That is the pure form - not sure the match works all that well. Then you have the Republican libertarians who promote Capitalism. Many libertarian anachists don't believe in what we call crony capitalism, where capitalists used any advantage provided by the state. Some of us who exist on the left believe that a capitalism that terrorizes workers is as bad as a governent that controls its citizens and takes their money. We also believe in mutualism - which is a form of voluntary association that comes under the heading of anarchism (the ultimate in libertarianism). Cooperatives are part of this. Some of us even believe in taxation as the means to an end. My own proposal is to divert Social Security employer taxes to personal accounts holding employer voting stock - with these accounts credited equally - regardless of wage level. Of course, this is more liberal than libertarian - but it is a means to the same end - abolishing both crony capitalism and government.

Can we work with the Church? Absolutely. Mutualists and libertarians love private schools, especially the good ones in the Catholic system. I am sure if the bishops set up a series of adult education high schools that take the place of welfare, we'd like that too. If Catholic hospitals started treating all non-violent drug offenders rather then sending them to jail we would applaud and probably contribute to all these things if they happened in lieu of taxation. What we do resist, however, is the Church not letting people think for themselves - especially on issues of personal choice. We will never cooperate with any coercive bans imposed using the state. Indeed, there is a class of libertarians called Christian libertarians who are largely Protestant who believe that the state should not be doing anything in the moral law that the Church could teach (and we respect its right to teach it as long as it does not use public coercion to do so), with God (not government) being the ultimate authority and Hell the ulitmate punishment. Shunning is the prefered social penalty of libertarians.

One further thing about evangelization. I include a chapter in my book on God and my understanding of the Crucifixion which I believe shows that Jesus created morality for man, not God and that his sacrifice was a vision quest into human despair - not a blood offering. As you can guess, such a shift in theology yields a profound shift in morality and natural law reasoning. Why do I mention these things? First, because they have a direct bearing on liberty. Second, because libertarianism before the Austrians was called libertarian socialism. Indeed, Libertarian Socialism is the proper form for seeking liberty. Why talk about God then? Because doing so offers proof that I am not associating myself with the atheism of Marx - which tends to be the bogeyman people throw up whenever the word socialism is mentioned. Note that there is a long tradition of Christian socialism (monks, anyone?) and Christian Humanism (Erasmus). I would hope that any further conference on Social Libertarianism includes an expert on Erasmus.

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