Home / Audio / The Bottom Line: Exposing Catholic Austro-Libertarian Dissent
August 24, 2010 by Jeremiah Bannister
Jeremiah Bannister’s second half to “A Resolved Tension” in audio format.
Click below to listen:
Tags: Jeremiah Bannister, Libertarianism, Ordinary Magisterium, social encyclicals
About the author: Jeremiah Bannister
Jeremiah Bannister is the creator and former host of "Paleo Radio". He writes about politics, economics, religion and culture from a Catholic perspective. Bannister lives in Michigan with his wife and four children.
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In light of this, is it not a little disturbing to see a piece featured on InsideCatholic.com today by Austro-Libertarian Jeffrey A. Tucker? Mr. Tucker even takes a sneering jibe at John Medaille and Distributism at the beginning of the Comments section following his article. I see an unfortunate trend among orthodox Catholics toward embracing Austrianism as though that were the only alternative to socialism.
It is rather unfortunate, isn’t it? Thankfully, times seem to be a changin’.
I know it’s simplistic but when discussing economic regulation and why it’s absolutely necessary, I tell my conservative Catholic friends, “Free trade” is just like “free love.” They both sound really attractive but when practiced, there are terrible prices to be paid by all sorts of people, most of whom had no choice in the “free” choices.
I tell them that in the first semester of college econ (1968)I learned all about the “free market.” The second semester I learned that there is no such thing as a “free market” and that economic regulation was necessary to protect the honest and the vulnerable in the market place. Milton Friedman we had heard of; but we knew he was a shill for the business school types. How things have changed.
The days of disinterested, non-profit economic studies have gone with the Bayh-Dole “Modernization of Higher Education Act of 1980” which reversed prior prohibitions and allowed universities and faculty at publicly supported education institutions to enter into profit making ventures with corporations – a.k.a., “Commercialization of University Research.” This vested interest creating legislation should be overturned with the re-regulation of the economy.
I admittedly have not yet read The Church and the Market, Woods’ main treatise on this subject, but I understood his position to be that the Church has no competency to speak specifically on the *means* of economic action, while not disputing that the Church has full – and exclusive – competency and authority to pronounce on the moral principles to which such action must conform to be permissible. While the latter necessarily interacts with the former – that is, the moral principles set forth by the Church will necessarily invalidate some economic means, e.g., slavery – the two realms of competency are nonetheless not inter-identifiable. To illustrate the kind of distinction at which I am driving: in my understanding, while the Church has both the competency and the authority to dictate that employers must pay their workers a just wage, She has neither the competency nor the authority to specify a specific dollar figure which is the minimum amount needed for a wage to be just (or how a just amount must be calculated), or that the wage must be paid in cash on a Tuesday, rather than by cheque on a Wednesday.
If this is, in fact, Woods’ position, it seems to be perfectly compatible with all the Church’s social teaching, including all of the quotes which you provided in this audio file and in your previous article “A Resolved Tension.”
What’s your take on this?
The problem, Matt, is that the Church does not admit as much. An additional difficulty is the fact that the Church does not separate ethics from economic activities (i.e. means) themselves. It is one thing to do what you do, and that is to distinguish; it is something altogether different to separate, which is something Woods, Sirico & Co. do regularly. For the popes, speaking on the ethical dimensions of economics is not and often can not be separated from the activities and means they are discussing. As such, the incompatibility remains.
What I wouldn’t give for the differences to be nothing more than whether we should pay with cash on Tuesday or a check on Wednesday!
The notion that distributive justice is best arrived at through Austro-libertarian means is tantamount to saying that sexual purity is best arrived at through prostitution.
Thanks for the response, Jeremiah. I’ll have to continue to think about this.
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