Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand"

Or so the old book says. It did not really for me. The only Rand book I ever read was Anthem and that was in high school. My teacher saw it as an introduction to "utopias" -- he had a rather negative view about them and all of the books he assigned us were of nightmare utopias, not Saint Thomas More idealized kind. My introduction to libertarianism was through my mother, though she would have rejected the term.

For many people, libertarianism and Ayn Rand are linked. Rand saw government, or rather collectivism sponsored by government, as an evil. This is a central belief of libertarian thought. But Rand also saw religion as a lesser evil. So can one be both libertarian and religious (and Catholic)?

Ultimately, libertarianism is about personal freedom and using that freedom to best of your ability. Does that necessarily contradict Catholicism? I believe not. But a belief in individual liberty means that each individual is supreme and autonomous. For the Catholic libertarian this provides a dilemma. If we are autonomous, how can we also belong to the body of the Church, which is necessarily a collective?

(Rand of course rejected the term libertarian instead considering herself an "Objectivist" -- but the question is still a valid one)


Libertarian Joe said...

I have been pondering over this myself. My provisional solution is: There is a moral and practical difference between a private collective and a statist collective.Every private institution, whether a business, club or church is a sort of collective. Its members participate in a common goal, each performing his own individual role within that body. In the Christian life, this participation takes on a spiritual character. But in each of these cases, we are talking about an "organic" bond which is "natural" in the sense that it is not coerced. No one is forced to join a club, a business or the Church (if he is, we rightly cry "FOUL!"). And while individual members may voluntary abdicate some of their rights (by working extra hours unpaid to get a job done or by taking vows of celibacy or poverty), everyone recognizes as a matter of justice that these abdications must ultimately be voluntary to be valid.

It is not so in the State collective, an unnatural bond formed by coercion of the many by the few (or the few by the many).
The state forms bonds in the same way it forms geographical boundaries--through the mechanism of force. It raises money, not by engaging in trade, but by stealing from its citizens through the barrel of a gun. The collective unity it brings is legislated from the top down, but living things grow up from the soil and mingle where they will. The state is a parasite, it makes nothing and cannot live except on that which is made by others. Hence it is morally evil as well as economically impractical. The short term goods it "produces" (by stealing productive capital and reallocating it into the hands of the politically well connected or into its own destructive projects) do not make up for the long term damage its does to its host (the citizenry). Ultimately, it kills the host and (if it cannot find another) then falls off and dies itself.

One more thing, the Church raises its funds through voluntary contributions, the State through violence. There is no contradiction between being a Catholic and being a libertarian. There is certainly a contradiction between being a Catholic and a solipsistic egoistic "individualist". But such people can rarely even hold down jobs anyway and are thus far more likely to be Marxists than libertarians.

Thomas said...

I understand that my contribution is a bit tardy, however, I believe I have something meaningful to contribute. To govern well means that one must accept some level of organizational hypocrisy. Unlike a systematic and internally consistent summa theologica, government, especially of the secular sort often and even must accept some internal inconsistency.

In short, the individualist model of personal liberty as an amalgamation of negative (Locke) and positive (Mill) liberty is the closest model we can achieve to allow the Church to be what it can maximally become within the socio political context of our society. We ought to accept this chasm between our Catholic presuppositions of collective/social justice and governance and the individualist assumptions of modern libertarianism. Once the state ceases to be such an encumbrance on our society, the Church and other forms of private social organizations can step up to take its place. The only reason that the American Council of Bishops and other ‘traditional’ conservatives support the ordinary conservative platforms of state/government mandated social change comes from the assumption that these institutions are able to facilitate the changes (end of abortion, prostitution, just economic policies) and that society will necessarily go along with it.

The truth is that we live in an increasingly secular society and our efforts to change the tide by coercing others through statist policies are wasting time, money, and political capital. I bank on the fact that our private institutions can in fact govern its peoples better than the government can. And these institutions can govern more fully if the state is out of the way.

рестораны в барселоне said...

Well, I do not actually imagine it may work.