“Nine Libertarian Heresies Tempting Neoconservative Catholics to Stray from Catholic Social Thought”
A fine essay from Daniel Finn:
For the last four decades, a number of “neoconservative” Christian scholars have worked to great benefit in articulating the moral foundations of capitalism and its positive moral effects in socializing market participants. This has been much-needed work, as the Christian churches still have not grappled adequately with the systematic moral defense of self-interest in market relationships that has been employed in secular thought for three hundred years. At the same time, however, many involved in this affirmation of capitalism have too easily found common cause with others on the political right, in particular libertarians, whose fundamental view of the human person and morality is at odds with a Christian and, in particular, a Catholic view of life.
There is no doubt that we need markets and economic freedom, individual ownership of property (including businesses), personal economic initiative, individual creativity, and a host of other things advocated by the people I will be criticizing in this essay. The point is that we cannot adequately sort out issues we face as people of faith unless we have a careful and self-critical understanding of religious social thought, something that neoconservative Catholics too often do not exhibit. For many, the tendency is to cultivate a sense of fidelity to the Catholic tradition by employing the parts of it they like while ignoring what they do not. Following the publication of Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, Michael Novak claimed the pope was a capitalist even though the pope said in that encyclical that after the fall of the Soviet Union it was an error to claim capitalism as “the only model of economic organization.”
However, the focus of this essay is not simply the selectivity of neoconservatives but on how unacknowledged libertarian presumptions in their work distort Catholic thinking. It is out of a need for a balanced affirmation of markets that I criticize those who advocate markets most energetically.
I would add a clarification about my use of the word heresy in this essay. On the one hand, I use that word informally, not intending it to refer only to errors formally condemned by church authorities. By heresy, I mean a conviction about humanity or morality conflicting with standard Catholic assumptions, particularly as articulated in official papal teaching. On the other hand, I neither claim that all libertarians hold every heresy identified here nor that all libertarians who hold any one of these heresies employ the same rationale for it. Nor do I claim that any particular neoconservative Catholic scholar is tempted by all of these heresies or holds any one of them in its pure libertarian form. The heresies operate more as lures that pull such scholars away from their Catholic roots. Furthermore, I do not claim that all neoconservative Catholic scholars are equally susceptible to going astray in this manner. It is very difficult to provide an accurate general critique of a group when it comprises considerable diversity, as is the case for neoconservative Catholics. The argument here, however, is that there has developed too close an intellectual relationship between a number of Catholic scholars and libertarianism. Much of what is wrong about libertarianism from the Catholic perspective has been integrated into purportedly Catholic ethical reflection on the economy
Read the rest here. Good stuff!