Sunday, January 13, 2013

Catholics and Libertarianism

Catholics hold many different political opinions, everything from communism to libertarianism. In our Young Catholic group here in St. John's, there is one lady in particular who is very orthodox, has a Ph.D. in theology, and says she believes in a Marxist-Leninist system. I, however, differ markedly from her position and endorse a laissez-faire economic model. Many Catholics would say both of these extremes are impermissible by the Church, however I would beg to differ. I believe a free market economy is fully in line with Church teaching.

What prompted me to write this blog tonight was the high number of well-known libertarians who are practicing Catholics. I just finished watching a video made by Professor James Otteson. He has won awards worth tens of thousands of dollars for his work in economics, such as the Templeton Enterprise Award. He is an expert on Adam Smith and supports a laissez-faire economy. It seems 99% certain that he is a Catholic given things he has written on his blog.

Tom Woods, a historian and Austrian economist whom I admire greatly, has written very extensively free-market economics. He started Ron Paul's SuperPAC during the presidential elections. He frequently hosts the Peter Schiff Show where free market topics are discussed. Not only is he a well-known historian and economist, he has also written very extensively on the Catholic Church. He wrote the famous book "How the Catholic Church Build Western Civilization". He believes his faith and economic beliefs mesh very well.

A little while back I was listening to Lew Rockwell's radio program. He is the proprietor of an eponymous website which has become one of the most well known resources for libertarian information, and is himself a Catholic. He is the CEO and Chairman of the Ludwig Von Mises Foundation, one of the largest libertarian institutions in the world. On his program, he featured Professor Gerard Casey, an Irish professor. On the program, Dr. Casey was asked how a Catholic can be a libertarian, and he responded by saying he didn't know how a Catholic "couldn't" be a libertarian.

One of the founders of the Austrian school of economics, Frederic Von Hayek, was probably Catholic since he was from Austria, but I don't think he spoke about his religion much.

One last guy I want to mention is Fr. Robert Sirico. He is the founder of the Acton Institute, an educational institution located in Grand Rapids Michigan with the goal of promoting free trade and defending it from an ethical perspective, especially Catholicism. Fr. Sirico takes his role as a Catholic priest very seriously and  still defends the free market very vigorously.

My point is that very many well known libertarians are Catholic. I do not believe there is a conflict in these two positions and in very many instances I believe it is the most Catholic option. There is a popular trend nowadays to say that in order to be a good Catholic you have to be something of a socialist. Maybe not 100%, but to a large degree. Catholics often feel conflicted in elections when they are trying to decide between a candidate who is pro-abortion and anti-free trade versus a candidate who is pro-life and pro-free trade. They feel Catholics must vote for a politician who wants bigger government, higher taxes, more regulation, etc. which is normally the position of leftist groups who tend to support abortion as well.

In any event, a Catholic must first and foremost vote to defend life, economic issues come second. But when it comes to economic issues, I believe a freer market is a better market and many good Catholics agree with me.


  1. I think what many people fail to see is that a moral society REQUIRES freedom, as much as it requires things like food and employment. If a society is not free to make choices *it cannot be moral*. When the people's decision-making is replaced by government fiat, they are no longer making moral decisions, exercising moral agency and therefore learning to be good. Freedom is a human right. I don't consider myself a libetarian, but I definitely think of myself as right-wing.

  2. Good post. I am with Gerard Casey. Catholics should be libertarian. If God thinks it take free men to make good men, who are we to argue?

    Randy England,