Monthly Archives: September 2012

Free is Beautiful reviewed by New American

Why Catholics should be libertarian

Thanks to Patrick Krey for a wide-ranging review of Free is Beautiful at The New Amercan.

His article is a neat digest of why liberty and Catholicism are so closely allied. This excerpt is from his conclusion:

Though many libertarian writers fall into the habit of writing lengthy, academic-sounding essays that overwhelm the reader and lose their interest, England avoids any such traps by presenting his positions in simple, easily digested segments that walk the reader through how a libertarian society would work. England’s experience as a litigator, who has to persuade a jury, has served him well and is evidenced in his writing. This book would be a great asset in efforts to convert Christians to the cause of liberty.

The whole review is available here and at

Do we own ourselves?

Libertarians—many of whom are not religious, let alone Catholic—often refer to human freedom as being rooted in the idea of self-ownership; that men have control over their own bodies—and by extension—the products of their labor. An atheist can hardly invoke God or the Church to defend his right to run his own life—that is, the right of an individual as the owner of his life and body. The Christian will rightly object that we do not own ourselves; we were created by God and are held in being by Him.

In addition to owing God for our very existence, there is that matter of the forbidden fruit and our first parents. Even if we had owned ourselves at the start—which we did not—man sinned and lost what he had been given. We forfeited paradise though sin. So God—already owning the ground and every creature that walked there—stepped into history as a man and paid the price to buy us back from sin. Scripture is crystal clear on this matter:


Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20


No Christian can claim ownership of himself, but the responsibility is still his. We are stewards of our own lives, bodies and goods. [CCC 952] We answer to God for ourselves and how we have conducted our lives. Other men will answer for their actions.

Whether we hold our own bodies as stewards or whether we mistakenly believe our bodies to be ours alone, all “have dominion over their actions through their free-will.” [ST, I-II Q 1, A 2.]

Catholics freely choose to be subject to God and His Church and live their lives (some more, some less) accordingly. On judgment day, we answer to God, not to some busybody or policeman on our street.

Fr. James Sadowsky, Catholic libertarian, 1923 – 2012

“When we say that one has the right to do certain things we mean this and only this, that it would be immoral for another, alone or in combination, to stop him from doing this by the use of physical force or the threat thereof. We do not mean that any use a man makes of his property within the limits set forth is necessarily a moral use.”

–James A. Sadowsky, S.J., “Private Property and Collective Ownership

There are many Catholic libertarians, living and deceased, whose contributions to the cause of liberty are valuable and unforgettable. I have posted articles on a few, Frédéric Bastiat, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Judge Andrew Napolitano, as well as some saints whose teachings are foundational to Catholic libertarianism, St Thomas Aquinas  and St. Augustine.

One Catholic libertarian I have taken too long to acknowledge is Father James Sadowsky, S.J., who died this last Friday. He taught philosophy at Fordham University for more than 30 years. While I did not know Fr. Sadowsky except through his writings, I am indebted to him for his exposition of libertarian philosophy, especially in his harmonizing liberty with the Church’s teaching on abortion. He argued that issue against the great Murray Rothbard, with whom he shared a friendship going back to 1963. That 1978 article, Abortion and the Rights of the Child, is still good reading today.

Here are some posts on the passing of Fr. Sadowsky. I suspect there will be more remembrances later:

Also by and about Father Sadowsky:

+ + +
God of mercy, look kindly on Your servant, Father Sadowsky,
who has set down the burden of his years.
As he served You faithfully throughout his life,
may You give him the fullness of Your peace and joy. Amen.

St. Augustine, Alexander, the pirate and other thieves.

“The State is nothing more nor less than a bandit gang writ large.”

 ~ Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty“The Nature of the State”

An example:

Alexander and the Pirate
by St. Augustine

Remove justice, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of im-punity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What do you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor.”

 ~ St. Augustine, City of God, Book IV, Chapter 4.