Can Catholics Support Libertarians?

November 21, 2023 00:34:27
Can Catholics Support Libertarians?
Crisis Point
Can Catholics Support Libertarians?

Nov 21 2023 | 00:34:27

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Hosted By

Eric Sammons

Show Notes

The election of libertarian candidate Javier Milei as president of Argentina raises the question among Catholics: Can a Catholic support a libertarian? Or is libertarianism contrary to Catholicism, particularly Catholic social teaching?
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:17] The election of libertarian candidate Javier Milay as president of Argentina has raised some questions among Catholics. Can a Catholic support a libertarian for position of political power? Or is libertarianism contrary to Catholicism, particularly Catholic social teaching? That's what we're going to talk about today on Crisis Point. Hello. I'm Eric. Sam is your host and Aaron chief of crisis magazine. Before we get started, just want to encourage people to smash that like button. Don't be like a wimpy libertarian and just smash that button. Also, subscribe to the channel and let other people know about it. We really appreciate that. Plus, you can follow us on social media at Cris, magnet, all the major social media channels. Subscribe to our newsletter. Just go to Crisismagazine.com and we'll bug you and ask you for your email address. But we won't bug you too much, not in an annoying way, in a very nice libertarian type way. We'll ask you for your email address if you want to subscribe to our channel. Completely voluntary, of course. Also, you can send questions to the podcast. Just send it to [email protected]. Okay, so let's go ahead and get started here. So Javier Mile is the talk of the political world right now because he was the libertarian candidate in Argentina for president and he won, which is a big deal because to my knowledge, I don't think any libertarian candidate for anything has won that high of an office as president of a country like Argentina. I think they're one of the D 20 countries and I think it is an indication of how desperate things are in Argentina. They've had horrible economic problems over the past 20 plus years, and so I think they're looking for another answer before I get going more. I just recommend Tucker Carlson on his Twitter account, his X feed, whatever. He interviewed Javier Mile I guess about a month or two ago, and it's a very interesting interview. You can learn a lot about him and about Argentina from that. So I noticed though oh, another point of interest is that his vice president, Miley's vice president, is reportedly a Catholic, and a traditional Catholic at that. The word is that she even attends SSPX chapels down there. I don't know if that's true. I've heard it from multiple places, but maybe it is, maybe it isn't. [00:02:50] What I noticed, though, one of the things that came up and something I've seen recurring with this election is that Catholics, many Catholics don't like libertarians. [00:03:01] In fact, libertarians are kind of the boogeyman. And I've seen this definitely from the progressive Catholics, the ones who believe in big government for everything. [00:03:11] They just threw out libertarian as their description for almost anybody they don't like. I've noticed they called Donald Trump a libertarian, which is a joke. They've called other people that. It's just awful. Anybody who disagrees them is a libertarian. But I've also seen it from Faithful Catholics. Conservative Catholics. They also use libertarian as a pejorative, as kind of a shorthand to say, well, obviously this person is bad, has bad policies where because they're libertarian. And so the question is, is libertarianism is it incompatible with Catholicism? It should be a pejorative. It's almost like in a theological world among Catholics, if you don't agree with somebody theologically, you call them a Protestant, which is lazy. Likewise, I've noticed a lot of times catholics, they don't agree with somebody politically. They call them a libertarian, which also is lazy. And I think often their description of libertarianism is questionable. And we'll get to that in a second here. So one thing I want to do before I get into the kind of theoretical topic of libertarianism and whether or not it's compatible with Catholicism, and that is melee, we shouldn't look at Javier Milay as a Platonic ideal of libertarianism or any candidate for that matter. [00:04:31] I think it's unfair because I think what I've seen is that he's got some very solid policy and views from a libertarian standpoint. But he also has some that I think a lot of libertarians disagree with. My understanding is he's very pro, helping out Israel, helping out Ukraine in their wars. And as we'll see, libertarians typically do not want to get too involved in foreign policy. They're non interventionalists in general. So I don't want to be like this is not a discussion about melee. He may go out and do something that from a libertarian perspective is seen as terrible. I don't know. But let's talk more about libertarianism. So here's the fundamental problem is that the term libertarianism or libertarian has a wide range of definitions among many people. I brought this up on Twitter. I wrote that with Milay's election, I have a typo there that drives me crazy. By the way, this is an aside. I don't have the blue check mark so I can't edit my tweets and boy, when I do a tweet and I later see it has a grammatical mistake, it drives me crazy. Anyway, with the melee I meant to say with melee's election, I'm looking forward to everyone defining libertarian as whoever is their boogeyman. So the corporate media definition. So your CNNs, your MSNBCs, Fox News, people like that, they'll call any libertarian a Trumpian like Trump, which is a joke because Trump is definitely not a libertarian. I mean, almost in any way, shape or form, a Catholic leftist progressive will define a libertarian as somebody who hates Catholic social teaching and rejects it. We're going to talk about Catholic social teaching here in a minute. A Catholic conservative often will define a libertarian as a libertine, somebody who basically advocates for no moral code. You do whatever makes you feel good. You want to sleep around, go ahead and do that. You want to do a bunch of drugs, go ahead and do that. That's kind of what a libertarian is. And so you'll see that these definitions are very different from each other and they just fit kind of the boogeyman of each of those various things. The corporate media, they hate Trump more than anything. So libertarians are Trumpians. The Catholic leftists, they really want everybody to embrace their definition, their interpretation of Catholic social teaching. So libertarians are those who reject their interpretation. And Catholic conservatives who rightly, by the way, rightly want to defend traditional morality. They would say that libertarians are libertines. So what is actually libertarianism? [00:07:22] How should we define it? [00:07:24] Actually, let me take a step back. Another problem isn't just enemies of libertarianism defining it as they see fit. But a lot of self identified libertarians have very different definitions of what it means and they encompass a lot more than others might in their description of libertarianism. So I'm the first to admit that this is a problem. And honestly, this is a problem with all labels. There's the whole debate in the Catholic world about traditional Catholic, a trad, a traditionalist what does that label include? People identify me as a traditional Catholic. I generally identify as a traditional Catholic. [00:08:05] But I don't subscribe to many of the things that people think traditional Catholics all have subscribed to. Am I wrong? Maybe. Are they wrong? I don't know. The point is labels, we can't get too dogmatic about them, these human labels. So what I would say here's my definition and I didn't make this up. This is I've heard from many libertarians, very prominent libertarians, very popular libertarians. [00:08:33] One example is Tom Woods. He is a Catholic himself and he's libertarian. Dave Smith is another big libertarian voice. Ron Paul obviously is the most well known libertarian. And this is how they would generally define it. I'm not speaking in their words, but I'm trying to define it as they generally would. The first thing, though, is that libertarianism is not a religion or a way of life. [00:08:58] It's not something where it's like, okay, I'm a libertarian father or I'm a libertarian husband or something like that. Libertarianism is a practical political system and that's what it's limited to. So for example, two libertarians could have very different views on how to best raise their kids and they could still both be libertarians. [00:09:22] Being a libertarian or identifying as one politically does not mean that you are laissez faire, for example, in how you raise your children. And you would just let them be any religion or have any morality. It doesn't speak to that at all. In fact, it's completely agnostic to that. [00:09:42] And so that's one thing important to remember is that libertarianism is a practical political system. It's not a religion, it's not a way of life. It's not an ideology. [00:09:50] And it's based upon what's called the non aggression principle. The non aggression principle is the idea that no one can initiate or threaten force against someone or their property. [00:10:05] Say that again. [00:10:07] The non aggression principle is the idea that no one can initiate or threaten force against someone or their property. Pretty basic. It basically means don't hurt people and don't steal their things. Now again, this is not supposed to be a philosophy of life because obviously that's very minimal for life. I mean, as a Catholic, my fundamental principle isn't just simply don't hurt people and don't steal their things. That's part of it. But there's a lot more. I want to help people, I want to bring people to Jesus Christ, I want to be faithful to God, all these things. Again, it's not my religion, it's not anybody's religion. [00:10:46] It's not a way of life. So note very carefully what the non aggression principle says. It says you can't initiate force or steal people's things. It doesn't say you can't defend yourself. [00:10:59] So for example, you can't go up to somebody, a stranger and hit them in the face. [00:11:05] That would be wrong. [00:11:07] But if somebody comes up to you and hits you in the face, you can defend yourself and keep them from hitting you again and use whatever force is necessary in order to do that. [00:11:19] Now, the key is that with libertarianism is that the government that should be the abiding principle of the government and the government itself has to follow that. That's the key difference. [00:11:34] Most people would agree that people should not initiate force, they shouldn't hurt people, they shouldn't steal things. That obviously is wrong. But what libertarianism is saying is the government should follow those principles as well. It should not initiate or threaten force, it should not steal people's things. And that's the big difference because in almost every other political system you have a government that will initiate force against others, will steal other people's things. [00:12:06] And so that's the key difference because what they'll say is, oh, the government can do this. It has a right to do this. For example, tax people, for example, help create a department of education or whatever the case may be. But note that to do all those things there's a threat of force behind it. So for example, if you don't pay your taxes, what's going to happen? Eventually men with guns will come to your house and they'll haul you off to a cage if you don't. Likewise, all the different government programs, everything government does. [00:12:40] And so it's important to remember that under libertarianism the government has to abide by the same rules as the people. And I think this is one of the key points, is that it acknowledges that the people in government are just as affected by original sin by the fall as the rest of us are. Now, me, libertarians might not be religious, they might not word it like that, but that's how I would word it. I e. Government officials can be just as corrupt as we can be. So just like that, we need some type of safeguard to protect us from our fellow citizen if they want to come steal things from us. Likewise, government officials, people dressed in official outfits can do that as well. And so we don't want that to happen either. And so ultimately, that decentralizes power. It tries to put power, too much power, outside of anybody's hands so they can't, without consequences, initiate force or steal things. [00:13:40] That's it. When it comes to the definition of libertarianism, it's a government that basically follows a non aggression principle. There's nothing else to it. That's the whole thing. [00:13:50] And so when people say like, libertarianism is awful because anti Catholic, I'm like, well, what part of that non aggression principle is not Catholic? What part of the idea that we shouldn't hurt people and we shouldn't steal their things and the government shouldn't either? How's that against Catholicism? The problem is, of course, they're defining it much more broadly. Now, let's apply this in a few cases. Let's apply this non aggression principle and libertarianism to a few practical cases. First, we foreign policy. This would lead you, a government, to be very non interventionalist. We would not initiate force against somebody who had not initiated force against us, and we wouldn't invent a bunch of reasons why it was against our national interest. So, for example, when Russia invaded Ukraine, what Russia did was wrong because it was initiating force. But for us to go in when we weren't attacked and initiate force would also be wrong. It would not be wrong for Ukraine to defend themselves. Likewise with Hamas attacking Israel. That violates the non aggression principle. But the US. Government going in and initiating more force would also violate it because nobody attacked us. Unlike Nikki, Haley thinks an attack against Israel is not an attack against America. That's ludicrous. So typically the libertarian point of view when it comes to foreign policy is non intervention. Avoid war if at all possible, but defend yourself if you need to. [00:15:21] I don't see how that can be considered anything against Catholicism. In fact, that's what Popes have been saying for a long time. They've always advocated for peace. Another issue that's controversial among many libertarians, but shouldn't be, is abortion. But abortion is a direct violation of the nonprogression principle. You're initiating force against somebody. [00:15:41] The baby didn't do anything, the baby didn't initiate anything. You're initiating force against them by killing them. So obviously abortion would be against it. That obviously is still compatible with Catholicism. Another area is the economy. And in this one, this is, I think, the strongest point of libertarianism. I do think there's weaknesses, by the way, of libertarianism, but I think this is the strongest point, and that is on the economic issue, is that because you can't initiate or threaten force and you can't steal things, private property is very important. If you own something and you got it in a fair way, you didn't steal it from somebody else, nobody can force you to use it in a certain way. You don't want to you can use it however you want, assuming you're not violating the non aggression principle yourself. And so private property is very important. [00:16:30] Likewise, the free market is very important. Right now, what we have in America is crony capitalism. What I mean by that is the government directs the economy. It rewards certain people and it ends up punishing other people. Typically it rewards the rich and punishes the middle class and the poor. Most government policies, economic policies, they reward the rich and they harm the poor and the middle class. [00:16:56] The monetary inflation that we have is probably the best example of that. And so a government that followed the non aggression principle, followed the libertarian principles, it would not say, okay, we are going to reward this company, and if you go against it, we will punish you. It would basically just stay out of it and it would let the free market decide these things. It would also be a free market of money. So if people wanted to use gold or bitcoin or dollars or whatever, they could use it. It's not forcing something on us. Like right now you're forced to use US. Dollars to pay your taxes. Even outside the immorality of most taxes, that's a force. What if you said, I want to pay my tax in gold? Well, you'll have men showing up with guns. Again, eventually it won't start off like that, but eventually that's what's going to happen. So there's no free market. [00:17:55] Now, another area in which we can apply libertarianism is in social services. This is probably where most progressive Catholics, many other Catholics would have the biggest problem. It would argue that the government has no right to do any social services, really. [00:18:09] And because for a lot of reasons. First of all, again, it's because in order to do social services, you have to take money from some people to give it to others. [00:18:21] Note, social services is not charity. If I willingly involuntarily want to give my money to help the poor, that's a good thing. Nothing against that in libertarianism. And obviously that's something that Catholicism encourages. But if some third party says, I'm going to take $100 from you and I'm going to give it to this person because I think they deserve it more than you do, that's a violation of non aggression principle, because you're stealing somebody's property, you're taking it from them unwillingly. They're not agreeing to this, and yet you're taking it from them. But that's what all social services are. Now, some would say this is a very callous and this is just a selfish system. That's what you hear a lot of Catholics, their criticism of libertarianism, it's selfish. But I don't think that's true because libertarianism isn't saying you shouldn't give to the poor, you shouldn't help the poor. That has nothing to do with libertarianism. That's your own personal philosophy, your personal religion. Libertarianism is just simply saying a third party can't come take your stuff and give it to somebody else. [00:19:24] I would argue as a Catholic, that if you don't give away some of your goods, some of your money to the poor, you're probably going to hell. [00:19:35] I mean, that's very clear from the sacred scriptures, from tradition, but you're not going to heaven because somebody took your things and gave it to the poor. There's no religious benefit to that. Now, I'd also say though, that this is actually the way to help the poor. The best social services harm the poor more than they hurt it. They're inefficient. They end up creating dependencies on the state, and they end up killing actual charity. I don't know how many people I know I've heard say basically they advocate for the government to do all these programs, but they don't give a dime. If you look at the average donations, liberals give almost nothing. They just make the government do it. But a lot of people don't give very much because they expect the government to do these things. And so it's actually depriving people of the opportunities to help people. And again, it's a very inefficient system because government does everything inefficiently because the incentive structure isn't there. The incentive structure isn't, oh, I'm doing this because I want to grow in holiness, or I want to do this because I want to help my community grow. No, it's like I have a job where I'm paid to do this, and whether I do a good job or not, I'm going to get paid the same. [00:20:49] So government social services are very inefficient. So I would argue with anybody who claims that my opposition or any libertarian's opposition to social services is somehow uncharitable or uncatholic. I would argue with any of them that they're simply false. I want to help the poor, but I don't want to be stupid about it. [00:21:10] I want to help the poor in the best possible way. And that's not through government programs. That's through private industries, through private charitable industries. [00:21:20] Another area, the last area I just want to cover about libertarianism and government is the idea of social issues in general. If it doesn't break the non aggression principle, it's not going to be made illegal. [00:21:33] Now, for a lot of us conservative Catholics, we might struggle with that. We might have some issues with that. I mean, one of the classic arguments is, of course, prostitution. And St. Thomas Aquinas himself said that prostitution, making it illegal isn't necessarily always the right thing to do, isn't required, at the very least, of know political leaders. They don't have to make prostitution illegal. I think the problem is in today's society, I think we know it probably has always been true. [00:22:01] Most women who are involved in prostitution have been exploited. [00:22:05] They haven't freely chosen to be in the line of work they are. And that's against the non aggression principle. So obviously anything where a woman was forced into it or something like that should be made illegal. And this doesn't mean it's not always immoral. It's always immoral to engage in prostitution. [00:22:21] Whichever party you're part of, that's always immoral and it's always going to be a moral sin that you need to confess and could lead you to hell. But government's job is not to make every sin illegal. [00:22:35] That's just simply not. I mean, that's a Catholic principle that's always been held. [00:22:41] And so that's some general areas now I would say a couple of areas I would say that are weaknesses of libertarianism. One is their embrace of legalization of drugs. I understand the principled point that if somebody voluntarily chooses to do drugs and they're sold it voluntarily and everybody's involved is voluntary, there's no pressure on anybody, something like that, then I understand why that is not against the non aggression principle. The problem is, I think it undervalues the addiction aspect of drugs that a drug dealer, their goal would be to get somebody addicted because then they have a business for life and so you lose your free will. You're voluntarily choosing anymore once you're addicted. And at what point do you become addicted? At what point when you're selling something that is, you know, is incredibly addictive, is that already a violation? So I would say that's a weakness that I think most libertarians don't want to address. Another one is the area of minors. At what point does a person get full rights under the law? [00:23:57] Obviously a six year old can't voluntarily choose to do very much. I mean, if a six year old says, for example, I want to become a boy, or something like that, they can't really make that decision on their own. [00:24:12] They don't have fully formed reason. I think a lot of libertarians don't always appreciate that minors are a different category before somebody's able to make a full decision. Now, that being said, I want to now address the idea of Catholic social teaching. This is something that I see come up all the time. [00:24:29] One thing I want to know is Catholic social teaching. Teaching is actually a recent phenomenon in a sense, as we understand it today. It really was invented in a way by Pope Leo XII at the end of the 19th century. So it's only about 100 and 2000, 3040 years old. I'm not saying that the Catholic Church didn't have teachings of a social nature before this, but what we call Catholic social teaching today, that conglomeration of teachings really originated with Pope Leo Xi. And so because of that, I do think we should recognize this isn't like perennial teaching. It's not like Catholics. Catholics in the second century, for example, would have been 100% against abortion, but they wouldn't necessarily be on board with all what later became Catholic social teaching for obvious reasons. So I think that's one thing to note, and it really is a result of the change in the role of the papacy in the Church, we see that until about the 19th century, most popes did not they were not proactive in teaching to the entire Church about everything under the sun. That really didn't happen till about the 19th century, and really not till the late 19th century. Before Pius IX, before about the middle 19th century, popes almost never wrote encyclicals. You might have a Pope who was pope for 15 years and wrote one encyclical. Then you get to Leo the 13th, who wrote, I think, 40 something. I can't remember exactly how many he wrote a ton. And that continued on in the 20th century, not the 21st century popes writing lots of encyclicals and letters, teaching about all these things on every aspect of life. That simply wasn't how the papacy worked until about 150 years ago. And so this is something that we need to note, because Catholic social teaching is not the same thing as, for example, I don't know what to call it. Like regular Catholic teaching, teaching on faith and morals. Catholic social teaching is more of an application of many of the principles that we find in Catholic teaching on faith and morals. So teachings we find in the Catechism, for example, catholic social teaching are applications of that. So, for example, I had this compendium of the social doctrine of the Church. People sometimes look at this as like a catechism, but it's not a catechism, at least how they always traditionally been. It's very clear about what is wrong, what is right. When it comes to social teaching, it's much more of suggestions, applications, how people might think it be best to do things. But that's not the same thing as saying something is always wrong. [00:27:14] And so I think that's something we need to remember. [00:27:18] When something's always wrong, it's wrong in every situation. So abortion is always wrong. There's never a justification for it. But in Catholic social teaching, you have a lot of I don't know what the best word for is, like wiggle room, because it's applications. It's people deciding, believing, okay, I think these are the basic ways we should go about to make this principle happen. So let me give an example. [00:27:45] A principle of Catholic teaching is that we should help the poor. That one, I think, should be non controversial among Catholics. We should help the poor. [00:27:55] Catholic social teaching would then start to go beyond that and talk about how we help the poor, how we apply that teaching of helping the poor and make it the best. Now, this is something that should it be government handouts, should it be welfare, should it be creation of jobs, should it be a robust economy? What should it be? [00:28:17] These are things Catholics can debate because we don't have full knowledge of every situation. [00:28:25] Another good example of this is the just wage. The Catech social teaching is that employers should pay a just wage. The problem is, what is a just wage. [00:28:36] I mean, some would say it's a wage in which somebody can live off of, a family can live off of. But what does that mean? Does that mean they get a big screen TV? Does that mean they get an iPhone? Does that mean they eat from aldi's or that they eat at nice restaurants? I mean, there's a lot of room to work there on what a just wage is. [00:29:00] And likewise, what is the obligations of an employer to pay a just wage if their business would not survive if they paid a so called just wage, meaning a wage somebody else determined was just. [00:29:13] And so I think these are all issues that are all debatable and they're not clear cut, like something like prohibition against abortion, against stealing, things of that nature. [00:29:25] And so I think Catholic social teaching is treated like the catechism, like it's set and we all can agree on exactly what it means. But that's not the case. Catholic social teaching is not infallible teaching and that we all have catholics all must have the exact same interpretation and follow lockstep. That's just simply not the case. And so libertarians who have different ways of bringing about a just society that is fair to everybody and can help alleviate the most people out of poverty, they have every right to have their views just as much as the big government person. Progressive who thinks the government should be doing all that to help the poor. One is not more in keeping with Catholic social teaching. The other as it truly should be understood. [00:30:16] And just because maybe one pope one time in the past didn't understand economics and thought a big government program might solve a problem, doesn't make that Catholic teaching that Catholics have to abide by. That's the important thing to note about this. [00:30:32] So I think this is something I'm going to wrap it up here soon, but I think this is something we have to recognize. And I think one of the things that I think Catholics, when they criticize libertarianism and they advocate for government solutions, I think there's a key point here that I think is often ignored and not brought up and not debated, and that is the morality of government forcing things on its citizens. [00:31:05] I never see that brought up in Catholic social teaching or among Catholics. What is the morality of a government, for example, taxing a citizenry 70, 80% in order to fund social programs that don't do anything to help the poor? What is the morality of just taxing even less than that, what is the morality of a lot of rules and regulations on businesses that just keep them from being successful and therefore keep people out of work? [00:31:35] What is the morality of the government saying, I'm going to take this amount of your money from you and you have no say in the matter except for maybe a vote that has no real. Impact. We don't look at the morality of that. Now, I'm not saying that the government can never use force because, for example, they can use force to stop somebody who has violated the non aggression principle. [00:31:59] And I think that's clear cut, that that's moral. But I do think there should be a bigger debate on the morality of government. Just because you're working for the government does not give you a free pass when it comes to forcing people to do things that you want them to do. Yes, the state does have a role in society. It's a natural institution, and I'm not an anarchist. Not saying we abolish a state. Yet at the same time, the people who work for the state do have certain moral obligations just like anybody else. And just because they wear a certain uniform or work in a certain government department does not give them the moral right to do immoral things, to force people to do things against their will. I think this is something we really need to debate more. So the question is, can a Catholic support a libertarian? Absolutely. I'm not saying they should support every libertarian. Some libertarians are better than others. I'm not saying they have to support a libertarian. Maybe the conservative candidate is better. But I am saying there's nothing libertarianism is not inherently anti Catholic. There's nothing in libertarianism itself that is anti Catholic. There might be libertarians who are anti Catholic, but libertarianism itself is not anti Catholic. So I think that's something we need to remember here. And so I'm looking forward I'm hoping Milay down in Argentina has an opportunity to actually put into practice. My guess is what will happen is he will be blocked at every turn by the deep state of Argentina and he won't actually be able to implement his policies very well. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm hoping that we do get a see and it causes a recovery in Argentina, a recovery in which they can become the successful, wonderful country that they used to be. I think that would be great. [00:33:56] Okay, well, I'm going to wrap it up there. Until next time, everybody. God love.

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