Acton’s Director of Research and author of Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case For Limited Government, A Free Economy And Human Flourishing, Samuel Gregg, has a new interview featured at The Catholic World Report. In it, Gregg is asked about the title of his new book.
CWR: Why the use of the term “Tea Party Catholic”? Isn’t the Tea Party mostly made up of angry white voters who hate government and don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes?
Gregg: Actually Tea Party Catholic has very little to say about today’s Tea Party movement—many members of which, by the way, are socially conservative Christians, including many Catholics, worried about America’s present direction. Instead, Tea Party Catholic seeks to underscore that it’s entirely possible to be a faithful Catholic and a supporter of the project in constitutionally ordered liberty that we associate with events like the Boston Tea Party and the American Founding. That Founding involved, as we know, rather strong commitments to limited government, economic freedom, and religious liberty: commitments that some think are under serious strain today.
Now this is obviously controversial. Many Catholic Americans, for example, still believe that the “two Johns”—Blessed John Rawls and Saint John Maynard Keynes!—have said everything that ever needed to be said about justice and the economy respectively. But many of the ideas outlined in Tea Party Catholic will irritate those Catholics inclined to shout “Americanism!” whenever a Catholic says that the American experiment, while not perfect, is in fact something that Catholics should promote and celebrate.
In short, to be a “Tea Party Catholic” means that you reject the path of Rawlisan-Keynesian-New-Dealism, especially regarding its expansionist view of government. But it also indicates that you’re unwilling to live Amish-like in a Catholic ghetto. Instead you believe (1) there are many things about the American Founding to be celebrated by Catholics, but also that (2) Catholicism can help shape that experiment in the direction of truth, virtue, and what I (and others) call human flourishing. I would never claim that Tea Party Catholic articulates the only possible Catholic stance on such matters. But I do suggest it’s a legitimate position for a Catholic to hold.
Gregg also discusses how the Catholic bishops of America have approached economics over the past 20 years, and the teachings of solidarity and subsidiarity, among other issues.
In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg draws upon Catholic teaching, natural law theory, and the thought of the only Catholic Signer of America's Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—the first “Tea Party Catholic”—to develop a Catholic case for the values and institutions associated with the free economy, limited government, and America's experiment in ordered liberty. Beginning with the nature of freedom and human flourishing, Gregg underscores the moral and economic benefits of business and markets as well as the welfare state's problems. Gregg then addresses several related issues that divide Catholics in America. These include the demands of social justice, the role of unions, immigration, poverty, and the relationship between secularism and big government.