The Problem with Libertarianism


Inspired by Budziszewski’s articles on the problem with progressivism and conservatism, I write this on the problem with libertarianism.

1.) Libertarianism is essentially secularist.  Libertarians to one extent or another oppose a particular religion having precedency over others, even in a country that is predominantly belonging to a particular religious group.  Catholics who espouse this view might believe in the same when the Church has been clear that a secularist society spells disaster.  The Second Vatican Council’s document Dignitatis Humanae even states that the document itself “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” (n. 1).  What doctrine is that?  Saint Pius X wrote, “That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error” (n. 3).  Such a belief that Church and state should be totally separate is a modernist heresy listed in Blessed Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors (n. 55).

It’s not that the Church and state should be the same entity; numerous Catholic theologians from popes, to bishops, to priests, deacons, monks and lay persons have emphasized that the Church and state must remain two separate entities for the sake of the Church.  That was what the investiture controversy was about: emperors and princes were electing bishops and appointing them, even without the approval of the pope and bishops.  Ironically this is exactly what Henry VIII ended up doing: appointing his own bishops and claiming authority over the Church in England.  So in regards to Church and state being two separate entities, libertarianism agrees with the Church, but in regards to Christianity’s role in society, libertarianism disagrees with the Church.  The latter is the problem.

2.) Libertarianism can sound an awful lot like libertinism.  Like I mentioned earlier, typical libertarian rhetoric goes like this: “If you don’t want X to be forced upon you, then don’t force Y upon others.”  Again, for the sake of the common good this may work to a certain degree.  However, you cannot use this argument for just any situation.  For example, you can’t say, “If you don’t want people to force you to believe murder is okay, then don’t force others to believe murder is wrong.”  First off, it’s illogical, because by telling somebody not to force something upon others, you are forcing them and telling them what to do.  Second, this is an extreme which cannot be taken.  Unfortunately many libertarians use this in regards to abortion, which we as Catholics should know is murder regardless when the abortion takes place.  The over lining difference between libertinism and libertarianism is that libertinism is a personal outlook on ethics while libertarianism is a political outlook on the role of ethics.  The libertine both believes that you can commit certain acts deemed immoral and the state has no right to tell you it’s wrong; libertarians may believe something is immoral but oppose the state punishing you for it.  In such cases, however, the two seem to overlap with a number of libertarians.

3.) Libertarianism tends to put too much emphasis on the Constitution.  That sounds like heresy or even blasphemy to libertarians, but let’s think this logically.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, not all forms of speech are protected by the first amendment: e.g. you can’t abuse the 911 line, you can’t shout “fire” in a theater and you certainly can’t shout “bomb” on an airplane, that is unless there actually is one.  These are rules meant to protect us.  However, many libertarians fail to understand how radical ideologies like Islamism grow like a wildfire.  They grow under the radar of free speech, only to get to the point where you have Sharia police patrolling Western cities, jihadi Muslims killing civilians, law enforcement and military personnel.  It comes to a point where enough is enough.  So, just because you say libertarians put too much emphasis on the Constitution, does not mean you hate the Constitution, believe in forced conversions and other such things.  It is like progressives; just because you oppose abortion, homosexuality and Islam does not mean you hate women, gays or Muslims.

Libertarians, especially those like Glenn Beck, treat the Constitution like it comes from the mouth of God, therefore it is absolutely binding and infallible.  The problem is, the Constitution is not part of the deposit of faith, therefore it cannot be put on par with Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  In fact, the Constitution grants Congress the right to ratify an amendment to the Constitution, even one that nullifies an earlier amendment, which means the Constitution can change and contradict itself.  This is the major difference this document has to Holy Writ and Tradition; the latter two cannot change as they are part of the deposit of faith.  The Constitution is a legal document, not divine revelation.  Nor is the Constitution original; it is heavily based on earlier documents from the Magna Carta to the Articles of Confederation.

4.) Libertarianism’s emphasis on the development of the sciences is way off.  At least when you consider Beck’s comments on science before the ratification of the Constitution and the foundation of the United States.  As previously mentioned, the U.S. Constitution is not original as it is heavily based on Greek philosophy, Roman politics, the Magna Carta and the Articles of Confederation.  The same is very much for science; it is not original; it did not start with the U.S. Constitution.  It developed over time; had earlier scientists not been inspired it is doubtful we would have such a scientific breakthrough even with the U.S. Constitution.  In this regard, libertarianism tends to border idolatry with the United States and its founding document.

As mentioned before, libertarianism is just another ideology.  Its hardcore believers would not like to hear that, but it is.  In fact, their response to opposition to libertarianism shows how they are ideologues like the progressives and conservatives they oppose so much.


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