Monthly Archives: December 2012

Libertarianism and the Catholic principle of “subsidiarity.”

Few trends are more damaging than the relentless march of the state into every area of life. With each passing year, the state brazenly exposes its contempt for the dignity of the individual and thereby testifies to its own illegitimacy.

The Church recognizes that while man is a social creature, he himself is prior to society; prior to the state. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it.” CCC 1930.

Man is above the stateHuman society is first composed of its individual members, who form numerous associations for survival, companionship and every other human need. Whether the group is a family, a church or any other co-operative effort, every institution derives its governing authority from the consent of the individual person. Society has an order that must be respected.

Pope Leo XIII taught that “Man precedes the State, and possesses, prior to the formation of any State, the right of providing for the substance of his body.” Rerum Novarum, 7.

Regarding the next societal level—the family—he wrote, “[T]he domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of community, and founded more immediately in nature.” Rerum Novarum, 13.

This natural ordering of society is known as the principle of subsidiarity.

In 1931, Pope Pius XI lamented the “near extinction” of these intermediate institutions that left the individual standing alone before his master, the state. In the place of

. . . that rich social life which was once highly developed through associations of various kinds, there remain virtually only individuals and the State. This is to the great harm of the State itself; for, with a structure of social governance lost, and with the taking over of all the burdens which the wrecked associations once bore, the State has been overwhelmed and crushed by almost infinite tasks and duties.”

Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.

The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. 

Quadragesimo Anno, 78 – 80.

Subsidiarity is a principle of respect, and of justice. Subsidiarity best promotes the common good at every level of society. Nations fall. Civilizations die, but every person we meet is an immortal being, higher than anything in the physical creation; above and before the state. So let’s show some respect.



Gerard Casey recommends Free is Beautiful

Anarcho-Ichthus-brushedIn today’s Lew Rockwell show, Lew interviews philosophy professor Gerard Casey of University College Dublin, Ireland. Dr. Casey is a Catholic libertarian who has a new book titled Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State. Great interview, and near the end, he recommends reading Free is Beautiful. Here is the interview: Libertarian Anarchy


Below is Dr. Casey’s excellent lecture on Religion and Economics

What would we do without the state?

The most unreasonable objection to libertarianism is the claim that liberty will not fix problem “x” or problem “y.” This objection is made while ignoring the fact that government is not doing such a great job with “x” or “y” either.

A good example is the “drug war” where government prohibition has nurtured a massive black market run by organized, violent criminals. Then the government created a police state to catch, prosecute and house the same criminal gangs that their laws coaxed into existence, all of which is paid for (involuntarily) by the taxpayers; and after which, the problem is worse than when the “war” started.

When we look at it that way, it seems clear that giving liberty a try might no be so bad. After all, could anything be worse than the current situation?

The same question must be asked about other problems. How can we have a peaceful society without government police, courts and prisons? Won’t criminal gangs take over and turn the whole world into Somalia. Many smart people have given reasonable solutions for these problems, but sometimes these are just guesses, because we cannot be sure how a free society will solve every problem.

The worrying question seems to be, if we get rid of the state what will we replace it with? Perhaps we worry too much. As in the drug war, we need to step back and look at what government does and ask: If they weren’t doing this stuff would the world be better or worse? So–for the moment–forget drugs. Forget homosexual unions, gambling, prostitution and animal cruelty. Let’s cut straight to the gold standard of evil: Murder.

Individuals can be shockingly evil, and the harm they do to each other is in the news every day. The notoriety of serial killers lives long after them.

Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 victims; John Wayne Gacy killed 23; Ted Bundy, 35; and there were the Columbine and Colorado movie theater killers. History records many such monsters, some believed to have killed hundreds. Such horrors could seem insignificant, however, when set against the death toll when governments go to war.

In the 20th century, governments exceeded all previous wars by destroying more than 60 million human beings in World War II. In World War I, there were 10 million dead, not counting civilians. Dozens of wars have killed a million or more people. Even history’s most infamous serial killer, Soviet Major General Vasili Blokhin, in shooting 7,000 Polish officers in the space of 28 days in 1940, reached that record only with the aid of his government. Thirty of Stalin’s NKVD agents were needed to bring the victims before Blokhin and then remove their bodies.

Finally, even war cannot match the most prolific murderers of history: government against its own citizens. R.J. Rummel, in Death by Government, estimated that in the 20th century, mass murder, genocide and political murder by government caused the death of 169 million souls, not including war dead.

Compared to the state, mankind’s most accomplished serial killers have been embarrassingly ineffective.

So back to our question: If we get rid of the state what can we replace it with?

Does it matter?