Last week, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, where I am a graduate fellow, held one of the most important conferences of the year on Catholic Social Teaching. Panelists and speakers at the event, Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case against Libertarianism, directly confronted an ideology that is deeply incompatible with the Catholic faith—libertarianism—and explained its myriad deficiencies.
Here are some excellent reviews of the conference from: Michael Sean Winters, David Gibson, and Joshua McElwee. Since libertarianism directly conflicts with the values that shape much of our writing at Millennial, we will highlight some of the key insights from the conference. In Part I, the focus is on the first panel, which included Millennial’s Meghan Clark and was expertly moderated by Our Sunday Visitor’s Greg Erlandson.
Meghan Clark (St. John’s, Millennial writer)
- Solidarity exposes libertarianism as deficient.
- The imago dei is the foundation of the equality of all.
- To be a human person is to be in community.
- As Pope Benedict XVI said, we must get over the intoxication of total autonomy.
- No one is saved alone as an isolated individual.
- “What do children need in order to thrive?” is not a question of charity. It’s a question of justice.
- Subsidiarity means decisions are made at the proper level.
- It’s difficult to dialogue when you are not speaking the same language.
Mary Hirschfeld (Villanova)
- The fullness of human nature is found in social community.
- Catholic social thought cannot be reconciled with Randianism or a “greed is good” mentality.
- Subsidiarity matters. We must help the poor to be agents, not objects.
- Markets often fail, but the state is not a panacea. We need to be open to both markets and state intervention to find solutions to complex problems.
- The human person is what matters—not the goods that should serve the person.
Msgr. Stuart Swetland (Mt. St. Mary’s)
- The Church teaches that both communism and libertarianism are built on faulty anthropology.
- The family and the state are natural communities. Government is a necessary good.
- A modern market economy needs regulation and public works.
- Libertarianism privatizes faith, while Catholic teaching insists faith must impact culture.
- There are no absolute property rights. The universal destination of goods means they must serve the common good.
- Libertarians never consider the need for a family wage.
- Why don’t libertarians talk about subsidiarity when it comes to big banks and corporations?
- Powerful economic institutions are why the Church is calling for more government and world political authority.
- Why not talk to libertarians? “We didn’t want to dialogue with communism as much as show that it had inadequate ideology.”
Kathy Saile (Center for Budget & Policy)
- Quoting Michael Gerson, “There are few libertarians after hurricanes.”
- The safety net cuts poverty in half.
- The media’s political narrative of excessive spending is a caricature. The poor are left out in budget decisions.
- Churches and charities alone can’t fill the gap in reducing poverty. Government plays vital role.
- Catholic bishops have long supported tax policy that helps the poor and working poor.