The 2014 Acton Lecture Series got underway last week with an address from Jay Richards on the topic of “Why Libertarians Need God.” In his address, Richards argued that core libertarian principles of individual rights, freedom and responsibility, reason, moral truth, and limited government make little sense in an atheistic and materialist context, but make far more sense when grounded in a theistic belief system. The video of the full lecture is available below; I’ve embedded the audio after the jump.
Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico appeared in a a video interview released yesterday by Catholic News Service, following a press conference in Rome last week held to introduce his new book “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Economy” to the local media.
CNS Rome bureau chief Frank Rocca interviewed Sirico regarding his own moral defense of market economics and asked his opinion of the libertarian novelist and intellectual Ayn Rand, whose philosophy of objectivism and rational-self interest gained widespread support from laissez faire capitalists in the United States and Europe.
Rev. Sirico expressed his opinion of Rand’s “false gospel” of laissez faire capitalism in these words:
Ayn Rand is a very interesting character … She attempts to defend capitalism by the use of Aristotelian and, even at times, Thomistic categories. But I think that Rand has a counterfeit form of Christianity. Her success … to a very great extent, is [due to] the moral passion she brings to the question of economics.
One does not broadcast his opinions in various forums over the years as I have done without receiving my fair share of disagreement from all sides, friends and foes alike. One participant who came to a recent conference remarked, “All my life I have been looking to build a fair and egalitarian society, but I have now learned why it is better to advance a free and virtuous society.”
Yet, something new came my way when I received an envelope with the return address of Commonweal, a publication known for – how shall we put this gently? – a progressive stance on matters of faith and public policy. Inside was the September 26 issue of the magazine, with a helpful note from the editors pointing me to page 8 where I came upon the “Libertarian Heresy — The Fundamentalism of Free Market Heresy” by Daniel Finn, who is a professor at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. In his essay my colleague Sam Gregg and I are his primary targets. In a single, canard-laden article, we are attacked for heresy, fundamentalism, neo-conservatism and on questions of law and morality, for voicing “libertarian” and generally un-Catholic, not to mention anti-Thomistic views.
Professor Finn’s not-so-subtle polemical technique is to raise and make patently absurd questions and assertions and then leave it to the reader — and me — to conjecture an answer. Like so: “So has Fr. Sirico mixed libertarian heresy about human freedom into his Christian view of morality and law? I’ll leave that for him to reflect on.” As well as putting in my mouth the rather un-nuanced argument that “raising taxes to help others is unchristian.”
Facing an accusation of heresy from Commonweal was too delicious an irony to pass over without comment. So, on Oct. 13, I faxed the magazine this letter: (more…)