"Nine Libertarian Heresies"-A Response to Daniel K. Finn

By Santelli, Anthony E., II | Journal of Markets & Morality, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

"Nine Libertarian Heresies"-A Response to Daniel K. Finn


Santelli, Anthony E., II, Journal of Markets & Morality


Daniel K. Finn's article is a profound piece that makes arguments that are long overdue. Being one libertarian Catholic whom he critiques (I would not call myself a neoconservative), I recognize that not all his criticisms are meant for me. Further, I find myself in complete agreement with some of his points. He is correct in his view that many Catholic thinkers on the right have "unacknowledged libertarian presumptions in their work" that are not always in congruence with Catholic teaching.

That being said, however, there are nonlibertarian Catholic thinkers who have unacknowledged socialist principles in their work that are not always in congruence with Catholic social teaching either. Furthermore, I would argue that some of Finn's own thoughts fall into that category. This reply attempts to develop a coherent Catholic position on these nine heresies, revealing where libertarianism and Catholicism are in accord and in discord.

Heresy #1: Different understandings of freedom. The Catholic definition of freedom is not the same as the libertarian one. To the Church, freedom is having the ability to do what you should. (1) To a libertarian, freedom is having the right to do what you want, provided it does not harm someone else. Both agree that you need freedom to flourish. A non-Catholic libertarian thinks that having the right to do what you want enables you to flourish; a Catholic thinks that having the ability to do what you should enables you to flourish.

The difference is due to different understandings of the word you in the paragraph above: The Catholic "human person" is not the same as the libertarian/Austrian "individual."

The individual gets to completely define himself and what is right and wrong for him. (2) This is why a libertarian defines freedom as having the right to do what you want. What one wants to do is what is important because it is, by definition (to a libertarian), what makes him flourish. If one chooses something, it must be right for him because he chose it. This, of course, denies the reality of errors, or sin, as applicable to oneself.

The human person is defined by his essence and his relationships. Therefore it is his essence and relationships that define what actions are right and wrong for him, and consequently, what he should do to flourish. In other words, he is not only made by God--who has predefined what is good and bad for him by what is in accord and what is in discord with his nature, respectively--but is born into a particular reality of time and place and is affected by the real events of life as he lives, and it is those relationships and events that (1) place bounds on the realm of his possible choices and (2) place obligations on what it is that he should do in order to flourish. This is why a Catholic focuses on the importance of discovering what one should do because doing what one should enables him to flourish. Choosing otherwise would be a mistake or a sin.

This difference in ontology lies at the root of all differences between Catholicism and libertarianism. For example, you are your father's child. You did not decide this, but it is a part of who you are and you cannot change it even if you wanted to. This relationship places certain obligations on what you must do in order to flourish. For another example, a woman may not have wanted to get pregnant when she chose to engage in sex, but she can neither change the fact that she is pregnant nor the moral obligations that come with that state. An individual may think it acceptable to have an abortion, but a human person most certainly cannot.

An added complication is that there is serious disagreement amongst libertarians as to what constitutes harm to another. Some libertarians want to define harm as only physical harm (theft, bodily injury, or fraud that leads to loss of wealth or bodily injury). Other libertarians recognize that contract/covenant violations constitute harm as well (adultery). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

"Nine Libertarian Heresies"-A Response to Daniel K. Finn
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.