The centerpiece of the libertarian political philosophy is the nonaggression principle which prohibits any person from initiating physical force against another person. Such force–universally prohibited to individuals–fairs no better when government claims such power for itself.
J.R.R.Tolkien (1892 – 1973) is one such libertarian: A Catholic Englishman who understood Lord Acton’s maxim: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute powers corrupts absolutely.”
Viewing state power as illegitimate, Tolkien described himself as a philosophical anarchist:
“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) — or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inaminate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people. […] Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. ” The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien.
I hope you enjoy this very listenable biography and background on this great storyteller:
It’s not that long (280 pages), nor is it hard to read, but for those who are not inclined to pick up this book, Dr Woods gave a one hour presentation on the subject to the Texas Tech Catholic Student Association.
This talk is from September, 2013 and is especially valuable in considering the economic aspects of Pope’s Francis’ letter Evangelii Gaudium.
There is a standard criticism of libertarians by Catholic opponents: that we are selfish individualists.
I cannot understand how avoiding the use of violence in dealing with others is painted as individualistic and un-Christian. I am sorely tempted to believe these critics are being deliberately obtuse. The scripturesteach that we should not do to another what we would not want done to ourselves. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t hit. Don’t harm others. Live and let live. Mind your own business.
So here is my plea for charity: Give us libertarians the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume that libertarians are all about“Don’t tread on me.”I don’t control what others do to me,only what I do unto others. That is where my libertarianism hits the road.
I ran across a very well-made video called “The Conversation.” It’s a powerful dramatization of the non-aggression principle, well-reasoned–and not religiously based–so please share it with everyone.
What has the modern welfare state to do with charity? Almost nothing. The system seems almost designed to eliminate virtue, kindness or gratitude. The taxpayer gives not through the love of his neighbor, but through fear of the government. Charity is replaced with indignation, so that when confronted with other’s needs, we may ask–like Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”–“Are there no poorhouses?”
Nomatter how well a government might behave in most matters, no modern state (except perhaps one: the Vatican) avoids aggression as a means of accomplishing the “good.” Even the “good” government—which never initiates violence except to finance its good-deed-doing—finds itself making the moral choice condemned by St. Paul in Romans 3:8: that of doing evil that good may come of it.