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Monday, February 29, 2016

Catholicism Versus Libertarianism: An Argument

I'm going to keep this one simple, because firstly, I am not all that smart, and secondly, the moral contours of the basic question are not in themselves complicated. Here we go:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2406: "Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good."

"The common good" is defined as, "the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment."

The above definitions presuppose that the common good and the right of ownership exist. CCC, 2406 also suggests but does not specify that there could be a right to ownership that is illegitimate.

Therefore, political authority acts justly, prima facie, when it acts to secure relatively thorough and ready access to temporal goods, because that physical well-being, as an expression of the natural common good, is prior to the supernatural common good, but is not contrary to it. The natural common good is not contrary to the supernatural common good, because grace builds upon nature, but does not destroy it.

The universal destination of all goods, in accord with CCC, 2402, implies that the right of ownership of property in CCC, 2403 is theoretically subordinate to the supernatural common good.

Libertarianism asserts that political authority only acts justly with respect to private property when it upholds the obligations of contracts entered into freely, in accord with commutative justice; that is, it acts unjustly if it attempts to act for any other purpose.

But Catholic doctrine establishes that consent alone does not establish the morality of any agreement entered into freely, according to Rerum Novarum 44-45; that is, commutative justice and free will are not in themselves sufficient.

Libertarianism does not grant that the political authority may justly act in defense of other kinds of justice, or that the parties may enter into a contract that is intrinsically unjust with regard to things or persons. Thus, it does not theoretically subordinate the natural common good to the supernatural common good, because it denies that the former exists, or that the political authority has the right to regulate the right of private property in accord with the latter.

Therefore, libertarianism violates Catholic doctrine with respect to justice.

(Note: It is possible to argue that any particular regulation of the right of private property by political authority is imprudent, and possibly unjust, if such an action destroyed a natural solidarity that had developed, provided that the exchange in question was morally licit, and did not of itself prevent thorough and ready access to some necessary good.)


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Really good post, Jason :-)

Fred