Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Catholic Libertarianism"

Chronicling an exchange brought on by Mark Shea's latest rampage against the heresy of "libertarian Catholicism" (to which I think Rick Garnett offers a sound rebuttal).

And yet -- no one really thinks that "the market" should be entirely unregulated. And, in fact, it is pervasively, thoroughly, comprehensively (and sometimes stupidly) regulated. Everyone agrees – that is, everyone who is in the conversation agrees – that “the market” is not and should not be entirely “free.” Or, put differently, a “free market” – in order to be meaningfully free – is a (reasonably and intelligently) regulated one. We enforce contracts. We impose liability for harms caused. We regulate all the time and everywhere. The real debate (among people who concede the basic point, which Catholic teaching firmly and unambiguously affirms, that ordered-freedom, not statist command-and-control, should characterize “the economy”) is about how to locate the point at which regulations begin to stifle, rather than to promote, human flourishing and the common good, properly understood.

It is not, in my view, helpful to label as “idolatry” the unremarkable view that we can and should evaluate policies with respect to their effectiveness and that the effectiveness of policies is related to, and perhaps depends on, a number of things that the economists like to remind us about. No one thinks that government should do nothing. But, some of us think – and there is absolutely nothing not-Catholic about thinking – that there are limits to (a) what governments are morally authorized to do and (b) what governments, practically speaking, do well. To say this is not to make an “idol” of the market (though it is to avoid the error of making an “idol” of populism or statism).

-- "Laissez-Faire libertarism" as a straw man (Mirror of Justice)

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