Just so people understand my take on Ron Paul vs. the Party of Crazy and the God King

Just so people understand my take on Ron Paul vs. the Party of Crazy and the God King January 5, 2012

As I mention below, I see Paul as a sort of counterweight to the Party of Crazy. I do not see him as the Messiah, nor do I agree with his libertarianism at all times. Pace Ryan McMaken, I think I have sound reasons for doing so, since libertarianism is, as I have said before, a philosophy for people with no children.

C.S. Lewis once remarked that, as a general rule, men conceive of neighborliness as not giving trouble to their neighbors, while women conceive of neighborliness as taking trouble for their neighbors. I think this is fairly accurate, though your mileage may vary. Certainly, for me, one of the things i like about libertarianism (and ordinary Catholic parish culture, by the way) is that it leaves me alone and discourages meddling in my life by self-appointed do-gooders. Libertarians believe in the no harm principle: do not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. Fair enough. But that’s not Christian charity, it’s a sort of pagan minimalism. If you feel like taking trouble for others then do, but you don’t have to. And in the extreme vision of libertarianism articulated by the Enemy of God (and inspiration for Paul Ryan) Ayn Rand, such care for others is actually condemned and the Gospel of Selfishness proclaimed.

Moral: Libertarians and Objectivists may fight, but like all heretical Protestant sectarians, they have no Magisterium and Libertarianism winds up being whatever the loudest, richest and most bullying Libertarian says it is. I don’t think Libertarians are (necessarily) libertines, but I also see little in the libertarian philosophy to counter libertinism if, like the randy and repellent Rand, one is so inclined. Many Libertarians want personal responsibility. Great. But if one wishes to be a libertarian without personal responsibility, libertarian philosophy says, “No skin off my nose. Feel free to wreck your life.” Raising children on libertarian principles would be, I think, deeply immoral as this victim of an extreme Libertarian (read “Objectivist”) upbringing attests.

Again, I don’t think libertarians *hate* the poor. I merely think they don’t care about the poor because they share in common with Calvinism a peculiar tendency to be more alive to theories and diagrams than to actual people. Unlike most people, I don’t think the whoop of glee at the thought of somebody dying without health care (YEAH!) was primarily motivated by hatred so much as a sort of Aspergeresque inability to see beyond some libertarian diagram about freedom to the actual persons who are dying. As somebody who is unable to get health insurance who has just been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I have rather a different take on our civilization’s inability to provide health care, and an even more pungent view of the people who shouted, “YEAH!” in enthusiasm over the triumph of their diagram of “liberty” over the lives of the undeserving poor. I don’t think they hate me. I merely regard them in much the same way I regard many New Atheists: as people who suffer from a sort of personality disorder that renders them incapable of the normal social and affective interactions that normal people are capable of. There is something in Libertarianism, as there is in other ideologies and too-diagrammatic theologies, that exalts the theory over the human reality. I think Ron Paul is prone to this too. That’s why he makes absurd statements about how Libertarians can’t possibly be racists in the teeth of the obvious evidence to the contrary from his own newsletters.

I hasten to add that I don’t think Paul is a racist in the slightest. But it is obvious that he “reached out” to crazy racists and other fringies and kooks via whoever it was that wrote for his newsletters. That, while troubling, is not a deal-breaker for me, because I recognize that politics is the art of the possible. In Paul’s case, “the possible” meant (20 years ago) trying to cobble together support from a wide variety of kooks as well as more normal people. Paul, being a doctrinaire Libertarian, did what Libertarians did and said, “I’m not going to try to micromanage other peoples racist views” even though he does not share them. But it’s come back to bite him now and will only do that more so till he really makes a clean break. I’m perfectly satisfied he’s no racist himself and, in an almost charming way, is *such* a doctrinaire libertarian that, motivated by the Vision of the Triumph of the Diagram Over the Actual Human, he really believes that a libertarian cannot be a racist, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. This naivete is one of his most fetching qualities to me.

Speaking of fetching naivete: Ryan McMaken says:

Some Catholic pundits, such as Mark Shea, claim that libertarians inflate a concern for subsidiarity at the expense of solidarity. This notion of course, is based on an acceptance of Myths #1 and #2.

This myth can be dispelled in two different ways. First, we can note that libertarianism is not opposed to the success and legality of non-governmental organizations. Secondly, we note that libertarians oppose the organization that has done more to destroy human solidarity than any other organization in human history: the state.

I appreciate Ryan going to all that trouble to prove my point even as he imagines he is refuting it. For the fact is, of course, that the Church (as distinct from the Libertarian) does not “oppose” the state. The Church, ever since the time of the violently persecuting Nero, has always granted that the state has a real role to play in ordering the common good and that Caesar does not bear the sword in vain, even when he uses it to cut off the head of the man who wrote Romans 13. Can the state be abused and perverted? Of course! But it remains a (limited and qualified) good. Not an evil to be met with unqualified opposition.

Ryan’s next two “myths Catholics tell about libertarians” are, in my experience, myths indeed, so long as we are talking about garden variety libertarians and not the Jose Cuervo types known as Objectivists. But, again, libertarianism lacking a Magisterium, there is no such thing as “orthodox” libertarianism. There is merely the loudest libertarian in the room saying whatever it is he or (in the case of Ayn Rand, she) believes. And Randians do most definitely exalt self-interest to a deadly virtue and would most definitely like to see Christianity extirpated from the face of the earth. But many libertarians are quite generous and are devout Christians (though if they are Catholic they may–not must–have a troubled relationship with the Church’s teaching).

Finally, while it’s true that Dr. Paul is certainly prolife (of which more anon) it is not a “myth” that some libertarians are pro-abortion. Ayn Rand was emphatically pro-abortion and many libertarians are as well as a brief Google will show you. In short, it’s not as simple as Mr. McMaken wishes to believe. Only by practicing the No True Scotsman fallacy can one arrive at the claim that Catholics wary of libertarian ideology are indulging in “myths”. It’s a myth to say that *all* Libertarians hold the views Mr. McMaken dismisses. But it is by no means a myth to say that Libertarianism is a tent wide open to such views.

So given my difficulties with Libertarianism (which I have never hidden) why have I been willing to give Paul my (qualified) support? Simple. His views a) do not require me to embrace grave and intrinsic evil and b) I think his insistence on certain principles, in this particular hour in the history of the Republic outweigh his kookiness and his unsavory associates.

Dave Armstrong has recently argued that a vote for Paul does involve us in grave and intrinsic evil. I think Dave is misreading Paul. Paul does not seem to me to be arguing that abortifacients are okay, but that like it or not people are going to use them and that it is therefore a matter of changing hearts rather than changing law since that state cannot realistically police such a matter. Me: I’m mystified at how an obviously prolife man who wants to overturn Roe has his desire to do so suddenly treated like a bug instead of a feature. Up till now, wanting to overturn Roe has been the far off dream of all prolifers. Now Paul is faulted for it? I don’t get it. I see no evidence that Paul is pro-abortion from what he’s written. Merely that he is pro-realism about what the limits of human law are in the real world. Unless you believe there is a realistic possibility that, not just abortion, but the Pill can be outlawed in our present civilization (which, you know, there is not) then it seems to me that Evangelium Vitae has the last word:

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

Paul, because of his devotion to the Constitution as a sort of sacred text wants, among other things, to get rid of Roe and turn the question back to the states rather than pass a federal law outlawing abortion. He is not “pro-abortion” by any stretch. He merely believes that the evil of abortion should be dealt with by persuading the majority of people that it is wrong and having them reject it, rather than by imposing a ban by the Feds while the culture still embraces it–a ban sure to be overturned if the work of changing the culture is not done first. I can live with that. If he manages to destroy Roe, he will have done more than 30 years of Republicans have ever bothered to do. Having a disagreement about how to defeat the evil of abortion is not gravely and intrinsically evil. It’s just not.

So Paul steps over the extremely low bar of Basic Minimum Human Decency that the entire Republican and Democrat field fails to meet (except for Huntsman). As to why I have supported him over Huntsman, the answer is pretty simple: he has more clout and as I noted below, he therefore acts as a counterweight to the worst impulses of our Ruling Class on both sides of the aisle. He is opposed to the Police State we are erecting. He is opposed to the Eternal War for Empire our chickenhawk elites are sending our young men and women off to suffer and die in. He wants to seriously cut back Leviathan and its massive encroachments into our pockets and our lives. He opposes both the left’s sacrament of abortion and the right’s sacrament of torture (and I do mean sacrament since torture apologist Marc Theissen has actually praised waterboarding as relieving its victims of the sense of sin). Sure, he’s got some kooky ideas. But in a time when a bipartisan coalition, led by our God King, has just signed into law an act empowering the Dear Leader to strip any or all of us of habeas corpus and jail us forever, even as the Republican field (led by dissenting Catholics like Santorum and Gingrich) is revving up for a new insane war and the re-establishment of the torture state, I’ll take a kook like Paul over the sanity of the leaders of the Party of Crazy any day. Is he an ideologue who sincerely believes the US can somehow magically return to the 18th Century? Yes. Is he kooky for thinking the Civil Rights Act was a mistake? Yes. Did he screw up by letting racist nutjobs write his newsletter and trying to “reach out” to other racist nutjobs? Yes. And if any of these things had a serious bearing on our hastening plunge into a fascist crony capitalist police state, I might worry about them. But they don’t, so I prefer him to the leaders of the Party of Crazy and the worshippers of our God King.

Unlike many Paul fans, I have no delusions that Paul will win. And if Huntsman ever gains traction and Paul fades, I’m quite willing to back him instead. Like Tolkien, I regard history as “fighting the long defeat” and have only the most modest hopes for any sort of real victory for good through the political processes of this world. If Paul, or Huntsman, can act as a break on the increasing insanity of the American political scene, I will back them. But I don’t see salvation for the US coming through our demented politics. So, in the end, I’m not terribly invested in him. It is a mark of our diseased culture that somebody as curiously daft as Paul is so much more sane than the people constantly recommended to us by the elders and pundits of the Party of Crazy. That an empty suit like Romney, a war zealot and torture enthusiast like Santorum, and the very embodiment of the incestuous relationship of Wall Street and Caesar like Gingrich are the emblematic Holy Trinity of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism, while Paul is constantly shouted down and ignored even when what is says is obvious common sense is an almost tragic Greek doom for the GOP. It is a common place of all good tragic (and Christian) storytelling that it is the fool who winds up being wiser than all the clever people. Ron Paul is the fool God has given the US. His craziness not only makes Romney, Santorum and Gingrich look odious and embarrassing, but (as Glenn Greenwald argues with his fellow lefties) it also shames and embarrasses the hypocrites in the Democrat party, particularly our God King whom Greenwald eviscerates with verve and style.

With the passage of the NDAA, I am now thoroughly persuaded that the dynamic in this country is no longer Left v. Right, but our Ruling Elites vs. the rest of us. Paul is that rare relic, a man of principle (even if his principles are sometimes rather kooky and prefer the diagram over the human being). He is also, quite obviously, a *good* man: virtually the only man in Congress I would trust alone with my grand-daughter or my wallet. He is unalterably opposed to the Crony Capitalist Police State that the overwhelming majority of his fellow lawmakers (led by our President) wish to erect. Since he does not ask me to support grave intrinsic evil and he *does* get that fact, I back him. When (not if) he is defeated, I will either support some other candidate who shares his views or write him in. My vote will not change the outcome of the election, but it will change me if I choose to support the enemies of America who just stripped us of habeas corpus, who wish to be a torture/abortion state, and who are eager plunge us into another pre-emptive war in defiance of the Catechism.

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  • Brent

    Well said, sir! Well said! Now expect an encyclopedic-length rebuttal from Dave Armstrong.

    As a side note, I’m deeply sorry to hear you just got diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Have you started insulin injections yet? If not, you may be able to turn the tables.

    • Mark Shea

      They have me on Metformin and something else that has brought my blood sugar way down. Fortunately Metformin is very cheap. The real killer is the test strips. I’m making the changes in diet and exercise and hope to see, not just the diabetes come under control, but more of the fat come off. I’ve already dropped nearly 60 pounds, but I’d love to see another 60 come off. Your prayer for the New Year that I get healthier are appreciated.

      • Eric

        Check out the book ‘Eat to Live’ by Dr. Fuhrman! It’s a highly informative booK!!!

      • David Davies

        Come live in Bolivia. I’ve been here five months and lost twenty pounds without any special diet or exercise. Somehow, everything here is uphill………..

      • SKay

        That is wonderful news, Mark.

      • Jack


        Good News Mark, I’m not quite in the same boat but I would like to drop 24lbs over the next couple of months (or better yet convert the fat into muscle) so that I can fit back into size 30 pants (currently at 34).

        My advice cut out the salt, excess salt retains water in your system and can really add pounds to your frame (also it will give your blood pressure nightmares).

        If you have any spare time I’d reccomend the Balanced living weekly podcast by cliff ravenscraft and Fr Roderick Voughagen.

    • Walid Nicola

      It looks like Ryan McMaken rebutted many of your assumptions on the Church and state, and libertarianism as a Randian philosophy. Interesting reading and the reason I checked out this article.


  • No need, Brent, since Mark was not directly addressing my own arguments in whatever he is arguing with or about above.

    If anyone wants to see the actual nature of my concerns, here are links (not provided above, either; but I think it was a mistaken link, which is easy to do) to my discussions on Paul and abortion:

    http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=323274857696932&id=100000749848938 [Facebook]

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2012/01/catholic-social-teaching-and-myself.html [blog: including comments in the combox]

  • Robert

    “… libertarianism is, as I have said before, a philosophy for people with no children.”

    The conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton, has made the point that libertarianism exalts the individual at the expense of the community and historic communal traditions. To this, one could add the family.

    Of course, McMaken, would rightly say that in practice libertarians are very communal. This is true for some, but not others (e.g. extreme followers of Rand). The point is that libertarianism does not have a very good theoretical ability of incorporating community into it – that is, as a part of it as a political philosophy. There is no natural fit in other words.

    • Dan C

      In order to promote the communal or the family, libertarianism ends up creating constructs like Rand in which the family is promoted as a “selfish unit.” When groups do that, such as unions, The Acton Institute finds them promoting evil vices. Such a philosophy collapses quickly at its simplest application.

      • In order to promote the communal or the family, libertarianism ends up creating constructs like Rand in which the family is promoted as a “selfish unit.”

        Wait, really? So somehow the absolute, impossible-to-avoid dynamics of individualism are applied to individual families now? They’ve given up the game.

    • David H.

      Libertarianism is condemned by past Popes including Leo XIII. What is with some Catholics.

  • ctd

    Mark could have been harder on Ryan. Ryan’s post says this: “On the other hand, libertarians oppose the state. It is difficult to image just how exactly pro-state Catholics imagine that the state actually promotes solidarity.”

    Mark put it gently, but the truth is more direct. There is no way, whatsoever, that this statement can be reconciled to the church’s teaching. The number of statements from the magisterium acknowledging the need for government in society and its proper role in promoting solidarity would be too numerous to list.

    One wonders whether Ryan has ever read an encyclical or the documents of Vatican II, or even Aquinas.

    • pomofo

      “Government” and “state” are not the same thing. Government does not require coercion, while the state does. The state is a territorial monopolist on the use of force; its core principle is “might makes right”, a concept which is not reconcilable with Catholic moral teaching.

      I would imagine that Catholics using the term “state” don’t agree with the principle that might makes right, but their casual use of the word raises serious red flags with libertarians. Catholics who use the term “state” when they mean “government” are being sloppy but it’s forgivable because the terms are so often conflated in popular usage.

      • Yeah, some distinguos would be really helpful right about now. Nevertheless, even making a distinction between the “state” and “government” doesn’t cut it, since tools of the community, tools of coercive punishment and personal aid, and the authority by which those tools are wielded vary more finely than just a binary distinction between two terms, “state” and “government”.

      • Captain Peabody

        The “monopoly on the use of force” is the very core of the Catholic idea of government; in historical Catholic understanding, the government is most simply “he who bears the sword in the place of God,” (see: St. Paul), the institution authorized with the sole right to punish wrongdoers according to natural and divine law and use even coercive means to provide for the common defense and welfare.

        The power of the Catholic government is by nature coercive, and not merely voluntary or obliging; and it is not at all “might makes right,” because (1) the right of the government to use coercive force comes from God, the source of all authority, and (2) the powers possessed by the government are and must be strictly limited and controlled by natural and divine law and right as personified in the institutional Church.

        I am fairly confident that all of this is in the mainstream of Catholic social teaching. If you doubt me, look it up for yourself.

        • Eric

          Nobody in the Church bears the sword in place of God. They bear it because God gives it to them. The Sword of God is the Spirit of God: it is spiritual in nature, not physical. Those who are chosen by God to bear it can be regarded as Church elders. The sword you and Mark refer to is one of steel, this is not the same thing that St Paul refers to. St Paul refers to the Sword that allows one to judge the true intentions of any particular person, guards the entrance way to communal life, and enforces the laws of the Christian community.

          Never have I known of a single state actor that has been entrusted by God with the responsibility or tools to achieve God’s will in his kingdom. People who suggest otherwise typically severely misread St. Paul. Following such people will always lead you down the path of evil, and you will never truly know good.

      • Except that you are using “state” simply to mean a territorial monopolist on the use of force; its core principle is “might makes right”.

        The word “state” (or, the word Englished as “state”) has been used to indicate the concrete institution of government since Plato, and has a much broader meaning than an instrument of violent coercion.

        Now, coercion is one of the special features of government, and therefore of the state; but coercion is not necessarily violent – i.e., it does not necessarily violate someone’s rights or dignity. A child, after all, may be coerced to eat his vegetables or remain in his bedroom. A sick patient may be required to take medication, or perhaps physically restrained. A criminal may be coerced to perform penal service or remain in his cell. These are not violations, even if they require the use of physical force.

        That said, coercion is simply a tool permitted to the state, not its “core principle.” It is not permitted to individual citizens because coercion is a tool at the service of the common good and not of any individual’s private good. Government, which is the protection and promotion of the common good, therefore may coerce in a way that a private individual acting on his own authority may not.

        Nor is coercion the only tool available for promoting and protecting the common good. Regulation, judgment, persuasion, and reward all are other tools in the box – and those are just the first to come to my mind. I’m sure there are more.

        In short, the “state” is much more than a bully, and has a purpose both legitimate and necessary in society.

    • Tim H

      I’ll let Ryan make his own argument.

      But I think the real argument here is over institutions that are not the national state. This is the fear of most of us. Whether Libertarian (of a certain stripe) or hard right conservative such as Tom Fleming, most of us can easily get behind the idea that we want more institutions between us as individuals and the national state. At minimum, I want my state and local government being diffident toward handouts and other “help” from the national government. I want strong families that have real choices rather than mandated treatment about child rearing as the national state sees fit. I want strong local school districts run by strong local people who also shy away from Federal funding. I want strong neighborhoods. I want strong social clubs. I want strong churches. I want strong cultural biases. I want all of these organizations and institutions looking crossways at the national government and mostly at other governments and maybe even each other. Let me unite where they may, but let them mostly be protective of the family and individual in their own way. Through these little platoons we can keep the Leviathan at bay.

  • D Provine

    A friend of mine who is a libertarian told me once of a dispute over fire companies on a Libertarian discussion list: both sides agreed that they should be volunteer fire companies, and people who want protection for their house should pay the annual fee. This is not because they think people’s houses should burn, but because they believed that this would provide the greatest protection, and at the same time cut down on financial abuses. But a dispute arose over the question “If you live in a duplex, do you have an obligation to pay the fee, because your home abuts your neighbors and therefore letting it burn will harm someone else?” The people on the “no” side were of the view that answering “yes”, while it might help your neighbor (only one person or perhaps one family) in the short term, over the long term it would turn back into a system of government-run taxed firehouses which they believe offer inferior service and are more prone to corruption.

    No one believed it was good to let a house burn down – but they did believe it was less bad than the alternatives. They were all of the opinion that people in favor of mandatory fees to the fire company were sacrificing the long-term good of everybody for the short-term good of a smaller group.

    We might disagree about how that would work out long-term, but once I understood that libertarians aren’t merely greedy, but rather believe that their proposals will produce the most good for the most people, it was easier to listen without the “yeah buts” popping into my head. And many people who aren’t in the Libertarian Party agree with some of their positions; William F Buckley Jr. wrote many years ago that attempts to stamp out drugs had done far more damage than the drugs themselves had ever done.

    As for Ron Paul, he believes that unborn babies are people, and thus individuals deserving of protection. As for his other views, many of them come down to this: if we’re going to have a Constitution, we should do what it says, or if we don’t like what it says we should amend it. But simply ignoring the laws as written is not acceptable: that’s what gets us torture and warrantless wiretaps and other abuses.

    • “they did believe it was less bad than the alternatives”

      Well, heh, that’s usually what most people believe about things. The trick is, imagining it from the point of view of one whose house burns, or the one sick without insurance, or the one in the world who counted on foreign aid.

      • I dunno. Fire insurance is an interesting case. In this thought exercise, I think that there should be a two-tiered approach…you can pay for fire protection beforehand, or you can be charged an exorbitant fee if the fire company has to come and you haven’t signed up. In no case do I think that the house should just burn.

        • Nor do I. And that’s why, as I’ve said, replacing one extreme (power to Caesar) by adopting another extreme (as long as Caesar isn’t involved, go in peace; keep warm and well fed) isn’t the way to go. There has to be a balance that is lacking in our current options.

        • Blake Helgoth

          Here’s an idea, why not have a local fire house that depend on charity. It used to work for hospitals until all of the government bureaucracy made it imposible. Then, there is no need to force people to pay.

        • The Rural/Metro Fire Protection company, headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ, relies on subscriptions in remote and rural areas. They will put out a fire at a non-subscriber’s house if it threatens a subscriber’s house. They then bill the non-subscriber for the actual cost of fighting that fire, plus a nominal profit.

    • Dan C

      The evidence of more “prone to corruption” type of stuff is really flimsy. It sits with the evidence of voter fraud-hardly present.

      While one can always search the internet and find, in a country of 300 million plus people, evidence of an instance of corrpution, one has to show it is prevalent and endemic. Not merely isolated instances of rare occurrences.

  • That was a magnum opus. I totally agree about Ron Paul being the best counterweight, and that it’s a sign of how bad things are that “kooky” Ron Paul is a better choice than the “establishment” candidates.

    The only thing I’d quibble with is that, even though the government does have a role, I would argue that it would be better to let local communities and churches help those in need in their own communities rather than bubble money up to the federal level and then bubble it back down again in an impersonal way. The problem is that now we are conditioned to expect Leviathan to do everything for us. It’s also true that, if local communities and churches were left to help, some of them might not rise to the occasion. I think it’s worth the risk, though. In the end, as John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    Mark, try drinking regular (or decaf) Lipton black tea to help regulate your blood sugar. At least, that’s what my naturopath tells me, and I’d pretty much trust her with my life after she got me off my arthritis meds and my wife off of her thyroid meds, with both of us feeling better than we have felt in years. At any rate, I’m pretty sure it won’t hurt and it’s cheap stuff.

    • “I think it’s worth the risk”

      Good points, except for that. To me, it’s only worth the risk if I’m willing to say me and my family will be the ones who suffer if it breaks down. And for me, a combination, a fair balance, is what is needed, not one extreme at the expense of another.

  • I agree with you, Mark. Great post!

  • Waleed

    D Provine said it well.

    Libertarians will oppose govt Not because they don’t care about people but because they think there are better ways to serve the people.

    I’ve always said that utilitarianism is the foundation of libertarianism and so the practicality of law plays a big part. Good intentions aren’t enough.

    Libertarianism actually encourages community because people can no longer rely on the state, so reliance on each other becomes necessary.

    This works a treat in third world countries where extended families live together. The poor and sick might not get any help from the state but they have their families to help them, or even their religious institutions.

    I am a supporter of libertarian and capitalist philosophy and it’s not because I care more about diagrams than actual people, it’s probably more te opposite of that.

    However, Ron Paul is not a true libertarian. He is more of a Strict Constitutionalist, and he is the only candidate right now who even talks about the constitution. So he should have everyone’s support on just that one point.

    The only real difference between despotism and democracy is the written contract the people have with the government.

    • This works a treat in third world countries where extended families live together.

      I may grant to some extent your general point. Nevertheless, I would be extremely leery of saying these things “work a treat” in third world countries. People do help each other, ’tis true. Whether they get all the help they could/ought to get is another thing entirely. Doctors Without Borders doesn’t send doctors from Sudan to the United States.

  • ds

    I hasten to add that I don’t think Paul is a racist in the slightest. But it is obvious that he “reached out” to crazy racists and other fringies and kooks via whoever it was that wrote for his newsletters. That, while troubling, is not a deal-breaker for me, because I recognize that politics is the art of the possible. In Paul’s case, “the possible” meant (20 years ago) trying to cobble together support from a wide variety of kooks as well as more normal people.

    Paul did not reach out to racist and fringe kooks in his newsletters for reasons of forging political support from a wide base, he did it to sell newsletters.

    If you are willing to spout hateful racist stereotypes not because you believe them, but to gain political support or make money or whatever, yeah maybe you aren’t a white sheet KKK racist, but that’s still a racist thing to do.

    My opinion (and I feel this is obvious to anyone not pulling the wool over their own eyes) is that Paul knows who wrote the newsletters and is lying about it, probably because he thinks it’s his best move politically. He’s already admitted to being dishonest about the newsletters once when he thought it was politically expedient.

  • Tominellay

    Thanks for the link to the Glenn Greenwald article…

  • As someone who has been desperately sick, I don’t necessarily buy the insinuation that “once you get sick, you view universal health coverage differently.” I was very ill, needed major surgery, and it cost $72,000. I had insurance, and I am glad I did, but I still do not support universal state-mandated health care, and I would rather suffer having to pay that $72,000 than impose this on all my countrymen, something the Constitution in no way says the gubment has the authority to do. I do not believe that just because *I* am suffering means we need to impose laws on everyone. When I get old, my plan is to get sick and die. That’s it. I don’t care if health insurance is available to me or not, and I am sick of seeing how people only seem to want laws applied or interpreted just to help their personal situation (not saying Mark is arguing that, but I have seen it). The man who personally thinks traffic is too fast wants speed limits reduced. The woman who doesn’t like the paint peeling on her neighbor’s house wants to invoke an ordinance violation. The man who is sick wants universal health care. I just really disagree with this mentality.

    • Mark Shea

      I wasn’t trying to suggest that. I’ve thought the libertarianesque stance of the right on health care has been out of step with Church teaching for years. The “YEAH!” crowd simply helped illustrate why.

      • Bill in StL

        I wouldn’t assume that the “Yeah” crowd were the libertarians (or Paul supporters) in the audience. They might have been the pro-torture, pro-bombing, who-cares-about-dead-foreigner-collateral-damage mainstream GOP supporters of the other candidates. I was certainly taken aback by the cheer, and I’m a Catholic anarchist Paul supporter. I support liberty not simply because the theories work, but because I can’t justify dealing with my fellow men with violence. I could no more vote to levy a tax for hurricane relief than I could break into a neighbor’s house and steal money for a charitable cause. In contrast to the stereotype, I think many libertarians came to that philosophy by their overwhelming concern for people.

    • Dan C

      The ill infant and genetically ill neonate is the case for universal care. If they cannot get care, they will die. Their care is not cheap and, for example, a premature infant runs up bills over half a million. Most of America could actually not pay that.

      “Get sick and die” is not a universalizable axiom, is not Christian for you or for those around you, and is often the bold cry of the routinely healthy. It fails to account for those who require care that only the community can assist with-such as the brain-injured adult, the mentally retarded, or the schizophrenic. Such comments lack any sense of community and fail to illustrate the role that our previous suffering pope taught us-how to receive care when one is needy.

      “Get sick and die” is horrifying and is a stoic ethic, not Christian. It is pagan and denies the existence of the community as the Mystical body of Christ.

      • Well, first, like I said, I wasn’t saying Mark you were saying that, so no worries.

        Second, DAN C, I am not AT ALL saying that “get sick and die” is a solution for the health care problem. By no means. That is not at all what I said and I don’t know how you got that I think that is a viable option.

        What I did say is that when *I* get old, MY plan is to get sick and die, because I do not expect this country to have any affordable health care available to me. I wish there were available health care, but there won’t be, and faced with getting sick and dying alone when I am old or forcing universal, mandated health care on everyone, I choose to die without health care. We all have to die, and I am not so attached to this life or comfort or whatever that I want to saddle the whole country for generations to come with trillions of dollars in debt just so I can prolong my life for a few more years.

        And, to the accusation that my response is the cry of the ‘routinely healthy’, please see my above comment – I had major heat surgery – it cost $72,000. I am certainly not routinely healthy.

        • Dan C

          I am not morally permitted to refuse a gastrostomy tube for feeding and nutrition. That’s a done deal.

          It then is unclear to me how your position, “get sick and die” is not 12 steps further down the road from refusing such supported nutrition and hydration.

          Universal health care has a closer relationship to the principles of Catholic social thought and the magisterium than both the American health care scheme or this cowboy-libertarianism espoused.

          We are saddled with public debt because our private wealth is enormous and distracting-from Xboxes to our digital obsessions. Given a choice between paying for cancer care for a 65 yo and my cable subscription, I choose the cancer patient. And really, those are our choices.

          Our public debt and parsimonious public support of communal needs is embarassing when compared to our luxurious entertainment budgets.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Your blanket statement about a gastrostomy tube is incorrect. There are numerous circumstances in which it would be in keeping with Catholic morals to refuse it. There is such a thing as prolonging life (gastrostomy appropriate) and prolonging death. It is very difficult to draw a clear line between the two and conscience, along with spiritual and medical direction in individual cases is best when it is not clear.

    • Oregon Catholic

      I think you might feel very differently if you had not been fortunate enough to have insurance. If you had said I sold my house and cleaned out my savings and retirement accounts to pay off my 72K in medical bills I would take you 100% at your word.

      I fail to understand why people cannot see universal BASIC health care as nothing more than a huge insurance pool where everyone has a stake in it, the costs are affordable because they are spread out over every citizen and everyone pays a share, and everyone hopes they will never have to use it. This is no different than employer sponsored healthcare. If some people need their premiums paid by the govt because they can’t afford to pay their full share well, this is really no different than your employer’s contribution to your premium costs. And with universal coverage you don’t lose insurance when you are unemployed and may need it most and you don’t have to switch doctors if you change jobs.

      You can argue that you don’t want the gov’t running the program because they make a mess of things but that is a different argument from the one that says all people should have access to basic care (not just in emergencies when it may be too late) and providers should not have to suffer bad debt from those who can’t/won’t pay.

  • Vincent

    Thanks for this insightful and well-written post. I have been following your writing for some time and I just wanted to say that I am sorry to learn of your diabetes diagnosis and that your health will be in my prayers. Keep up the great work!

  • Phil

    Thank you for the clear and objective response to the fear being perpetrated by other Catholic blogs and the elite media. It takes guts to speak against the tide–and for that I am grateful for you to be our voice of credibility in the Catholic media.

    And so what if Dr. Paul doesn’t win? Principles still matter. Whichever candidate wins, the spoils still get divided between the two parties, and America loses.


    Mark, I’ve read that cinnamon fights diabetes. Great post by the way.

  • Robbie

    Yes, Ron Paul is indeed pro life. The problem is he is pro homosexual “marriage”. He has not signed NOMs pledge to support traditional marriage as have Santorum, Gingrich and finally flip flopping Romney.

    • Mark Shea

      No. He’s not pro gay marriage. He is anti state involvement in the question of marriage. I think he’s wrong since marriage affects the common good. But it is false to say he favors gay marriage.

      • Blake Helgoth

        Mark, thank you. I am sick of people saying he is pro- ‘gay marriage’. I do think that if the Church had never ceded her authority in this matter to the state, we would not have this problem. Things being as they are now in our country, the less the state has to do with marriage the better!

  • Richard Johnson

    “I’m mystified at how an obviously prolife man who wants to overturn Roe has his desire to do so suddenly treated like a bug instead of a feature.”

    It is a bug for those who view keeping Republicans in power as more important than ending abortion. If a President actually succeeds in appointing enough Justices to actually get Roe reversed, or if Congress actually passes and sends to the states the long-dreamed-of Human Life Amendment (remember that?), it will effectively remove abortion as an issue at the federal level.

    With that removal the power that the GOP has over so many legions of pro-life voters. No longer will they be able to activate thousands of pro-life people with the simple phrase “pro-abort candidate”. No longer will they be able to send out fund raising memos like Rick Santorum just sent out calling for the pro-life faithful to send him money so he can take on the pro-abort establishment in DC.

    This is why Rep. Henry Hyde refused to bring forward the Human Life Amendment out of the House Judiciary Committee when he had a strong GOP majority in both houses. He knew that if abortion is removed as a federal issue, the GOP loses a tool that helps keep it in power.

  • Since I live in Massachusetts, it’s my privilege to encounter “pro-life” Catholics. That is, they’re in full agreement with the Church’s teaching that abortion is a terrible evil, but they can’t see forcing their morality upon others.

    Of course, Dr. Paul passes the ideological purity test. He’s opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for the same sorts of reasons he would oppose a nation-wide pro-life law. Unlike the “pro-life” Catholics above, he realizes that the overturning of Roe v. Wade (and Doe v. Bolton) would not make abortion illegal in all 50 states.

    So I wouldn’t be able to have this short dialog with Dr. Paul as I would with the “pro-life” Catholics. P-LC: “Oh, I don’t want to force my morality on others.” Me: “So do you oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964?” P-LC: “Oh no. Discrimination is wrong!” Me: “So you’re okay with forcing your morality on others?” Thankfully, most Americans are not as ideologically pure as Dr. Paul.

    Ryszard Legutko points out that liberals (in America, this would include conservatives and libertarians) focus on procedure. They might agree with you with an expression of empathy, but they will say that the First Amendment protection of free speech allows that a nude strip club be placed in your neighborhood. And that, they will say, is the end of the argument. And in Dr. Paul’s eyes, President Lincoln committed the unpardonable sin of ignoring the Constitution during a rebellion that threatened to destroy the union (“How dare he!”).

    Suppose that there were a pond in a park. Surrounding that pond is grass. Ringing both the pond and the grass is a path for those to enjoy the park. There is a man in the pond. The man is drowning. I imagine Dr. Paul as a man who would see the drowning man, and upon seeing the sign, “Keep off the grass!”, he would start looking for a non-grassy path to the pond. As Mark Shea notes, the Constitution is sacred scripture for Ron Paul.

    Ryszard Legutko also notes that liberals have a thin anthropology. While procedure would have Dr. Paul indifferent to the plight of the unborn, Ron Paul is not the thinness of the big three. As almost everyone perceives, the Thin Man is Mitt Romney. I’m reminded of this quote of Kirkegaard’s that Peter Kreeft brought up in one of his talks.

    Let others complain that the times are wicked. I complain that they are paltry; for they are without passion. The thoughts of men are thin and frail like lace, and they themselves are feeble like girl lace-makers. The thoughts of their hearts are too puny to be sinful. For a worm it might conceivably be regarded a sin to harbor thoughts such as theirs, not for a man who is formed in the image of God. Their lusts are staid and sluggish, their passions sleepy; they do their duty, these sordid minds, but permit themselves, as did the Jews, to trim the coins just the least little bit, thinking that if our Lord keep tab of them ever so carefully one might yet safely venture to fool him a bit. Fye upon them! It is therefore my soul ever returns to the Old Testament and to Shakespeare. There at least one feels that one is dealing with men and women; there one hates and loves, there one murders one’s enemy and curses his issue through all generations—there one sins.

    At the opposite pole, the passionate Sinner is Rick Santorum. He seems to have a passion for justice, and even when he sins, it is borne of a passion for justice. He does have a blood lust against the enemy. He’s infected with the neoconservative fever for war. I would love to ask Rick, “You’ve spoken eloquently about the human dignity of all men, including the yet to be born. What happened to the human dignity of the men you would have tortured or subjected to so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’?”

    Of the big three, the Thin Man, Dr. Indifference, and the Sinner, I find myself drawn to the thickest of the three, the Sinner. It’s not that I support his sins, but that I see him to have the greatest potential for an interior conversion. Like the militant saints of St. Ignatius or St. Francis who once desired war, God has something to work with. There is meat on the Sinner’s bones.

    I don’t dislike Dr. Indifference. His thickness comes from his passion for ideological purity. He would martyr his campaign for the cause. And so he is much preferred to the Thin Man.

    As for the Thin Man, I don’t have much to say about him.

    • I’ve cross-posted the above to my other blog.

    • Blake Helgoth

      What you are missing is that Dr. Paul does not think there should be no law regarding civil rights, just not a federal law. We do live in a republic don’t we?

      • I’m not unaware of how Dr. Ron Paul thinks. Personally, I don’t believe that he’s a racist as others have charged.

        I am aware of the historical facts. The South was in opposition to those civil rights that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sought to address. For Ron Paul, this is a procedural problem, because it should not have been handled at the federal level. As for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the rest of the civil rights movement at the time, they were tired of all the foot dragging over the civil rights of black Americans. They had good reason to believe that the South was not ready to change with respect to civil rights. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King attacked those who urged him to be patient. How much longer should blacks have waited for a redress to their grievances? How would you have answered Rev. King?

        • Thomas R

          Yeah. I mean I lean federalist myself, but there are limits. Some areas of basic rights I don’t think can really devolve to the states. As I recall New Hampshire didn’t allow Catholics to vote until the 1870s. I imagine there might still be a few states that would allow undue burdens on some religious or ethnic minorities if the federal government allowed that.

          I think the Goldwater/Paul type position was that those states would get enlightened or that it would be so obviously against their interest to not do so. Ron Paul even seems to say that of the Civil War. That eventually compensations, industrialization, etc would have ended slavery. And in the long-run I think that’s probably correct, more or less, but asking blacks to live in oppression or even slavery for the decades needed to allow the “wheels of history” to turn is certainly asking a great deal. I’m certainly not saying he’s racist, or that Goldwater was racist, just that maybe they weren’t particularly aware or empathetic.

          • Bill in StL

            Here’s a libertarian solution to slavery, that wouldn’t have cost the lives of 600,000 people: Step 1) Do not oppose the secession of the CSA. Treat their sovereignty through the prism of the Declaration of Independence and the spirit of the Revolution. Step 2) Pass an anti-slavery amendment in the remaining states. Stop enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. Offer unconditional asylum to all escaped slaves and those who assist them. Step 3) Encourage charitable organizations (churches and other abolitionists) to offer bounties for the rescue of slaves. Issue Letters of Marque against the captain, crew and owners of slave trading vessels.

            Slavery was already losing ground economically, and these measures would have ended the institution much more peacefully, as was done in every other civilized country.

            Granted, this would have risked the Union, but to assert a political arrangement was worth 600,000 human lives is shocking, and I can’t imagine how one squares it with Christianity.

            • Thomas R

              By 1860 most new slaves were almost certainly people born slaves. The African Slave-trade had been officially illegal for around five decades at that point.

              Slavery continued in Brazil until the 1880s. And considering the Southern states restricted the right of blacks to vote until the 1960s it’s plausible they would have done so even longer if the Confederacy had been a nation.

              Sure as a, presumably, non-black Christian what you’re saying might sound more humane. But after talking with black people, and thinking on their situation, I don’t think it’d be tolerable to most of them. Maybe this makes them unforgiving or unjust, but I kind of don’t think so.

              • Bill in StL

                Getting a bit more hypothetical, the citizens of a libertarian country could take up arms of their own accord. It preserves the freedom of each to choose if the enormous sacrifice of war is merited, which should serve as a check on the frivolous warmaking that is typical of governments. With this arrangement, the citizens who chose to do so could have righted the wrong of slavery directly. The remaining united States could have supported this effort to a greater or lesser degree. Not exactly Constitutional, I’ll grant, but more compatible with freedom and individual liberty. I’m not sure how much popular support a war to free the slaves would have gotten absent the draft, but I’m also not sure how much resistance to ending slavery would have been met were tariffs and the principle of secession not an issue. Probably less of each. Further, the war could have been simpler, being simply a large rescue mission, instead of seeking to crush the South entirely.

  • My previous kudo post dropped for some reason. Ah well. Still, I though it a great post. As a Paul supporter I can admit that helping others make the distinctions between what our federal government should be doing for us versus what the state or local governments should be expected to do has been a trying one. Americans, on the whole, have lost the historical base from which to make proper judgements based on what is written in the U.S. Constitution. Catholics, in particular suffer from being improperly catechised and from failing to make distinctions between what is good and bad in the secular media. We have been a victim of our own ignorance and complancency.

  • Blake Helgoth


    Thanks for a great post. My eyes have been opened over the past year and I now find myself sharing a position very similar to yours. Right now, Ron Paul is the only one who even seems to care wether or not the republic is saved. Other concerns seems minimal in comparison.

  • Telemachus

    Catholics really shouldn’t ever align themselves with any ideological group. Rather, we should play these groups off one another while we as the Church continue to come up with better ideas.

    Ron Paul 2012, because it’s nice to be free to do the work of God.

    God bless and Merry Christmas,

  • Michael Donahue

    I expect that I am older than many of you, so I remember (as opposed to having read) that Ron Paul was the only vote against establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican during the Reagan administration. Also, he went on and on about the “new money” when it was redesigned, how the government would be able to use it to track our movements. and that it was a sure sign of devaluation; we would be required to hand in old money and only use new money.
    Nowadays, from what I have heard, Paul is supported by “birthers” and the Klan. He’s not responsible for what other people say, but it makes one wonder. See if you can track down his appearances on the Alex Jones show.

  • Thomas R

    Well here you go saying something I pretty much totally agree with after I say “politically he’s almost nuts” elsewhere. Now I feel all bad. But anyway good job on this post and I think I have a handle on what you’re saying better now. And good luck on the diabetes.

  • Max

    That’s why I think it’s so important to get back to Paul being a Constitutionalist, not an anarchist.

    He doesn’t want to get rid of government. He doesn’t want to turn the country into Somalia.

    The United States in 1787 wasn’t Somalia. Read the Constitution, specifically Article 1 section 8, and you’ll see very quickly that there is a whole lot of proper role for government to play in society.

    • Thomas R

      Well the US of 1787 did have slavery and states, I think New Hampshire was a state, that forbade Catholics to vote.

  • Joe

    “Unlike most people, I don’t think the whoop of glee at the thought of somebody dying without health care (YEAH!) was primarily motivated by hatred so much as a sort of Aspergeresque inability to see beyond some libertarian diagram about freedom to the actual persons who are dying.”

    You’re more optimistic about those people than I am. I post this video of Tea Partiers as a evidence that some on the “Right” are completely off their rockers (at 1:10):


  • wpr

    Out of curiousity, do you define “Basic Minimum Human Decency” as not supporting a grave intrinsic evil? If so, how do you put Huntsman in that category since he supports homosexual civil unions?

  • Austin

    “Libertarians believe in the no harm principle: do not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. Fair enough. But that’s not Christian charity, it’s a sort of pagan minimalism.”

    Christian charity does not scale well and that’s why bureaucrats and corporations are not good at Christian charity. It’s enough to have the federal government protect freedom and maintain basic rules of justice rather than expecting them to practice Christian charity. Seeing the federal government as an extension of the Church and ending the separation of Church and State is more likely to make the U.S. Church lukewarm and pagan than the federal government Christian. So on federal matters I’m libertarian and local I’m Catholic. This seems at least to me consistent with how Jesus lived.

  • My response is here – http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/103097.html#more-103097

    Issued Ex Cathedra, from my house, The Feast of the Epiphany.

    • Thomas R

      I do think there’s maybe too much on Rand in an article I otherwise like.

      However that the Church believed it had rights the state couldn’t interfere with doesn’t really mean the church was against the state. The Church ran a state, the Papal States, for a number of centuries. Catholics died fighting against a state that interfered too much, but they died for a variety of states too. Until fairly modern times Catholics were often monarchists. Granted Thomas More was a republican, but he was horrified by “mob rule” and supported the state’s ability to punish anarchy or for that matter heresy.

      And it’s a bit hard to get around all the many Papal statements against “market liberalism.” Catholic thinking traditionally says the state does have a role in the “common good” and in the sphere of secular life. That it recognized the Church as a protected “second sphere” isn’t exactly like libertarianism.

  • Francisco Lozano

    Sir, theres a reason why Ron Paul is running as a Republican. He’s not a Libertarian. He’s served 25 years in Congress as a Republican. He left the GOP to run as a Libertarian in 1988 but he came back to the Republicans. You mention that he has a difference of opinion with a lot of Libertarians, that is because he would be most correctly be described as a Constitutionalist. Yes he was influenced greatly by Libertarianism but we must see that a lot of what Libertarians believe is also what Republicans used to also believe. So i don’t think that just describing him as a Libertarian, and putting him with a group of people, is all that accurate since he is clearly of another mold. I am not a Libertarian but i also hold his views and i am a Republican faithful to the Constitution and a Catholic. Iowa has shown that many people, including religious conservatives support his ideas.

    • Tus

      You are mixing apples with oranges – there is Libertarianism the ideology and Libertarianism the party. That Mr Paul was the latter only for a short stint and before and afterwards a Republican does not mean that we has not always been the former.

  • David H.

    Ummmm Libertarianism is condemned. So why are you supporting a Libertarian?

  • Chris

    A bit OT, but exactly where does the church “condemn” libertarianism?

    The closest I’ve ever seen is in the Catechism where socialism & extreme enthusiasm are condemned. That extreme individualism is possible in many outlooks, including libertarianism AND capitalism.

    Not arguing, just curious as to the implied claim that the Church has condemned “libertarianism”.

    • Thomas R

      Classic “liberalism”, and “Manchestrianism”, is at least criticized in several nineteenth century encyclicals. Granted some, or maybe almost all, of those are also critical of freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

      I do find the following in the Catechism

      “2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.”


  • Thanks for the article. For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see http://​www.Libertarian-Internation​al.org , the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization which if anything is the magisterium of the modern movement, and nexus of the wider libertarian-direction and -oriented ones that may be causing some confusion.

  • Aaron Brown

    Hey Mark,

    I’m a devout Catholic and a libertarian but I found your assessment of the Catholic faith with libertarian ideals (mainly Ron Paul’s ideals) inconsistent with reality. I’m pro-life and an avid philanthropist and not some self absorbed individual without morals. I firmly believe that we as humans do not have a right to tell someone else what to do so I must ask who gives you the right to tell them that what they are doing is wrong? God? Maybe it doesn’t follow our belief but the reality is that you believe we should govern others accordingly to our beliefs while I think it is best to leave the judging to God himself. When that day comes to be judged by God I only hope I led a long and moralistic life. It is that difference that separates you and I. So before you go casting stones at others, reflect and think each individual deserves to be treated as equals no matter how absurd their ideology is and has a right to do what makes them happy until the end of their days. Government shouldn’t pick winner and losers in the economy nor should a welfare state exist. Non-profit organizations have a larger impact than the government could do any day and without avid volunteers and philanthropist like myself, they could not exist. But let the sinner continue to never help others. I’d be happy to show him the right way to life but I do not believe we should force them to accept that way of life.


    • Oregon Catholic

      “I firmly believe that we as humans do not have a right to tell someone else what to do so I must ask who gives you the right to tell them that what they are doing is wrong? God? Maybe it doesn’t follow our belief but the reality is that you believe we should govern others accordingly to our beliefs while I think it is best to leave the judging to God himself. ”

      Seriously? I believe murder is wrong but if someone else wants to have fun with it I should butt out? Extreme example? – not if you consider abortion murder regardless of whether your neighbor calls it “choice”.

      None of us in society are truly free to live however we might think makes us individually happy. We tell other people how they can live when they wish to do things society calls wrong – no murder, no perjury, no stealing, etc. – we not only tell them, we punish them against their will if they do. I assume you would not be in favor of making any of these things legal, yet ask yourself why not if they are just moral behavior imposed on others.

      Yea, I’d say God can tell people what to do even if they don’t agree and by extension those who preach His law upon which our fundamental laws are made. The fact that we have abandoned some of His laws and have become a nation of sexual libertines doesn’t mean I have no right or moral obligation to speak the Truth about abortion, adultery, fornication, homosexual marriage, etc. and do what I can to stop the state from enacting laws that support them.

  • Stephen P. – A Catholic Libertarian (Ooh! Start boiling the tar…)

    Part of the difficulty many of the commentators are having with understanding Ryan McMaken’s arguments against the state is that his own use of Max Weber’s definition of the state (the entity which claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence) is not a complete reflection of current libertarian thought. It needs to be added that the state also claims the right to decide all disputes in its territorial boundaries, including those involving itself. The state, then, is a protection agency that claims monopoly of both the use of violence and the determination of justice. It also claims the right to decide for itself how much it will charge for the provision of these services. I have no qualms believing that Mr. McMaken both knows and accepts this definition.

    Obviously, the state so defined is incompatible with Catholic thought. Just as obviously every modern “national government” is tending in the direction of realizing this definition, or has already done so. The definition encapsulates the entire “social contract” theory of politics, which has formed every state since to a greater or lesser extent since Hobbes wrote his book. Constitutionalism is clearly an attempt to set up an authority above the monopoly power of the state, an attempt made necessary by the fact that states everywhere were beating down the traditional restraints on centralized political power, such as the Church, the privileges of cities, etc.

    The discussion goes nowhere without this vital definition being understood by all parties. For example, some of the commentators assert the role of the state in seeing to “The Common Good.” Beyond their not bothering to define what is the common good is (but then I don’t see a definition of that in any official Catholic social discourse either), clearly a state that has achieved the status of sole arbitrator of all disputes can say that whatever it chooses to enact is for the common good, and there is no authority beyond it to which one can appeal if one disagrees.

    I take it as demonstrated by Anthony de Jasay in his books, “The State” and “Against Politics” that, unfortunately, Constitutionalism is a dead end–it is not possible to construct legal guarantees against the abuse of state power that will last. One reason for this, of course, is that the state itself interprets the limits of its power, allowing it to expand those limits.

    The libertarian way out of this Chinese finger puzzle is to leave in the hands of “the market” those services which the state presumes to provide for us on a monopolistic basis. There is no reason in theory, and there are many historical examples in practice, why public order, arbitration of disputes, common defense, and the like, cannot be provided by competing organizations under the discipline of the market. (I say “discipline” because the market punishes everyone who does not provide services desired by consumers–or have you been able to shop at a Woolworth’s recently?) The market provides feedback to producers that does not exist in the political realm. Failures in the market lose their own money and are thereby deprived of the resources to achieve their ends, teaching them that they were not wanted, and preventing them from making any more mischief. The modern state uses other people’s money to achieve ends that it determines for itself, and the only “feedback” it gets is ultimately either violent revolution or social and economic collapse. Which we would all rather avoid, I think.

    Another reason for confidence in the market is that the social contract theory of politics is false in its assertion that man is fundamentally non-cooperative, that there would be a war of all against all without all men give up their security to the state. The libertarian view is that man is fundamentally cooperative, even though there are evil men who insist on not being so. This is compatible with Catholic teaching on original sin, which does not corrupt human nature in its entirety. The market is nothing more than a set of institutions in which men come together to cooperate (by exchange) to enhance their material well-being. It is not the only institution that advances human cooperation, but it is a major one, and it is compatible with others (such as the family) which do the same.

    And so the libertarian asks, “Why cannot the institutions of civil government arise out of and be maintained by diverse free actors in the marketplace? Why must these institutions be provided by a coercive monopoly?”

    I will take “ctd’s” challenge and assert that I am familiar with the social encyclicals and with Aquinas, and I see little evidence that Catholic social teaching is aware that this is a legitimate question. I see no evidence of awareness of the sea-change in the concept of the state from “civil government” such as an Aquinas would have conceived it, to the modern “leviathan.” Instead I see statements such as, “The State is the body of which the Church is the soul”, or renewed calls for state intervention in the economy, or for world government. These kinds of statements either appear to legitimize the modern state, or call for an expansion, rather than the necessary diminution of its pretentions and power.

    So much for my main thesis. Now for some specific replies.

    Note to Telemachus: the Catholic party in Germany in the thirties had no ideology to guide it, which is why it threw in its lot with the National Socialists, in an attempt to play them off against the Communists. That worked out well…

    Note to Captain Peabody: If “monopoly of the use of force” is at the core of Catholic thought on government, then clearly the apostles should have obeyed the Sanhedrin and not preached, and Becket and More died in vain. Historically, the transition of Christian polities to becoming states was well under way when it was still largely true that ” powers possessed by the government are and must be strictly limited and controlled by natural and divine law and right as personified in the institutional Church.” As a practical matter, the Church does not now have such authority in men’s minds to be able to control the state. Do we have time to wait for the whole world to become Catholic again before we deal with the abuses of the modern state?

    Note to Waleed: Libertarians such as Hans Hoppe have demonstrated that Benthamite utilitarianism is incoherent. Utilitarianism is a “foundation” of libertarianism (in a moral sense) ONLY in the sense that if it can be demonstrated that a policy cannot achieve the ends for which it is intended, it ought not be enacted–I would go so far as to say it would be immoral to enact it. But to know this in advance of enactment requires knowledge of economics, ideally the Austrian paradigm, which the Popes have demonstrated in their encyclicals they have no clue about. So for example the “family wage” idea is unworkable for all the same reasons that classical and Austrian economics apply to any kind of minimum wage law, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to stop the Popes from constantly recommending it. And even though in this area a pope has no more authority than he does in the area of automobile repair, that doesn’t prevent non-libertarian Catholics from beating us over the head with words like “dissenter.”

    Note on healthcare: Before asserting any sort of “right” to healthcare, I think it needs to be demonstrated what is different about healthcare from ALL OTHER SCARE RESOURCES IN THE UNIVERSE that requires it to be provided by means of government mandates? I will grant that healthcare is expensive, but that is demonstrably the work of four or five generations of interference in the healthcare market by state power, and provider cartelization protected by state power. Then there is the very real question whether “health insurance” as it is generally understood, and as is desired by “health care advocates” is actually insurance at all, since it extends “coverage” to many situations and conditions that it is in the insured’s power to control–the very definition of moral hazard. And finally, to say that a person has a “right” to healthcare implies that he can use force to compel a physician to treat him, making the doctor the slave of all. It is incoherent to assert that anyone has a right to any scare resource.

    Dear reader: if you have read this far, thank you for your attention and your patience.

    • Alejandro

      “[…] some of the commentators assert the role of the state in seeing to “The Common Good.” Beyond their not bothering to define what is the common good is (but then I don’t see a definition of that in any official Catholic social discourse either).”

      There aren’t any definitions of common good in any official Catholic social discourse? Are you serious? You CANNOT say that you are familiar with the social teaching of the Church if you don’t know the definition of common good. If you want a clear, straightforward definition you can find it in the Catechism, paragraphs 1906 through 1910, which also add that the role of the state is to defend and promote it.

    • Oregon Catholic

      “The market is nothing more than a set of institutions in which men come together to cooperate (by exchange) to enhance their material well-being.”

      That is very idealistic and you seem to underestimate the ability of greed, wealth, and power to skew the market playing field. There is no ideal world in which a free market will always police itself to keep transactions transparent and honest. The force of law is always needed to some extent to overcome monopolies which take unfair advantage. Capitalism works best on a local level. The farther away you get, the less the market forces exert their best influence. The global marketplace we have now isn’t capitalism, isn’t cooperative, and is beyond the reach of any law to keep it free from corruption.

      Mark joked about Ron Paul living in the 1800s. I think that is just about where we will be when the global economy collapses. I am taking steps to prepare myself to be as self-sufficient as I can and in a position to help others join with me in a more communal lifestyle if the collapse comes in my lifetime.

    • Tus

      “the market punishes everyone who does not provide services desired by consumers”

      Actually, it doesn’t. The market punishes those that provide services that are not desired* and rewards those that provide services desired*.

      The worst “punishment” for not providing services desired is a missed business opportunity.

      However, there is a tiny problem in that what is desired in terms of a market only takes into account what can be paid for – if some people desire a service but don’t have the means while others have the means but not the desire, these services will not be provided under a purely market driven system. Which becomes problematic, when these services are essential.

      “… or have you been able to shop at a Woolworth’s recently?”

      Yes, I have.

      “The modern state uses other people’s money to achieve ends that it determines for itself,”

      Actually, the state uses exactly the money that was given in taxes approved of by representatives of those that pay the tax. It’s not actually “other people’s money”.

  • Michael K

    But, again, libertarianism lacking a Magisterium, there is no such thing as “orthodox” libertarianism.

    And neither has the Magisterium itself managed to catch up to, let alone make sense of, modern political liberalism in all its manifestations. It does not tell us what orthodox Republicanism or Democracitism is either.

    More tellingly, while it condemns materialistic atheism it ignores the fact that almost every last State it supposedly asserts are established by God to enforce morality are in fact materialistic and atheistic in nature. They are the natural enemies of Christ and the Church he established. Are there atheistic libertarians who are depraved, worldly narcissists? Sure. But at least libertarianism asserts that the depraved worldly narcissists do not by some divine right have comprehensive authority over those with different values.

    Until the Magisterium (Entmoot that it is) catches up with reality and begins to give the world practical guidance on just what the real limits of the ‘state’ actually are we are forced to struggle ourselves without the Magisterium’s wisdom. You will see varieties within libertarianism because the modern state’s victims are many and various.

    • Michael K

      Sorry for the boldface text. I clumsily attempted to block quote but have almost no knowledge of html.

  • justamom

    Dear Mark,

    So sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. I know you have quite a large following including some of my close friends (I am an occasional follower only, sorry, I’m pretty busy with the kids). But, as a Catholic, a Paul supporter and sometime follower of McCracken, I was reading today and felt compelled to comment on your news. Please forgive me for butting into your personal business but as a mom, I am kind of stuck in know-it-all mode on certain matters.

    I have a very large family where type 2 diabetes is quite common. Contrary to what you may be told, it is a lifestyle condition and is reversible if you change your lifestyle. You will need to do much research on your own and I also suggest taking a human physiology course at your local community college to get up to date on all the latest details on how the human body should work all together as a whole organization of systems supporting each other and why proper nutrition & lifestyle is so important to body function. If you don’t have time for that, just buy the textbook, but do study it all, chapter by chapter, everything is connected. My recommendation is Fundamentals of Human Physiology by Lauralee Sherwood or any other college textbook that you may prefer but it should be recent and, if you buy new, some have online animated lessons.

    Some websites you should start frequenting are mercola.com, MarksDailyApple.com, alsearsmd.com, & healthranger.com to see where you are comfortable and some books that I feel comfortable recommending as a good starting point are:

    PACE Revolution, Dr Al Sears
    Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson
    Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe
    Mastering Leptin, Byron Richards
    Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, Richard Bernstein
    The Maker’s Diet, Jordan Rubin

    This is only a starting point and these will lead you to other sources of information that will be very helpful on your journey back to health.
    I truly hope you will take up the challenge and keep us up to date on your progress. My prayers will be with you and yours.

  • Ralph

    Isn’t Huntsman in favor of the death penalty? How can you support him?

    • Thomas R

      I think that could be a moot point. Paul is against the federal death penalty, but I don’t think he’s against it at a state-level and as most executions are done at a state-level it’s not much of an affect overall. If I’m wrong on that I’m actually open to correction.

      Also I think the Popes personally favor the end of the death penalty, but it’s not a clear Catechetical pronouncement. A candidate who said “I favor the death penalty in those rare cases where it defends society or individuals” this would be within church teaching as I understand it. Most European Catholics, and probably the majority of Latino Catholics too, would likely say there are no cases where it defends society or individuals. But considering the history of the Church and tradition an absolute prohibition I don’t think can ever be a requirement.

      (That said I think our system too often executes the “wrong people.” I don’t mean innocent people, I mean people who are not remotely a threat to anyone. People who, instead, were poor and stupid so did a terrible thing later regret. Also I think the death-penalty system at present devalues some lives and overvalues others. Going by a study I read an educated woman almost never gets the death penalty no matter what she does. As capital-sentences go it’s not unusual for an uneducated man to end up on death-row for shooting one person to death)

      • Ralph

        It’s in the catechism that the death penalty is only allowed when it is absolutely necessary to defend society – if there are any other effective alternatives (like life imprisonment without parole) it is not allowed. This has been clearly stated at least from the time of Aquinas, he discusses it in the Summa.

        Catholics in the West who think they can support the death penalty as a form of punishment for grave crimes since the Church allows it in certain cases, are wrong and fail to understand the specifics of Church teaching. With our effective and cheaper LWOP, it is not necessary to kill a criminal to protect society from him, thus it is not allowed by Church teaching, and supporting it merely as a form of punishment is denying the right to life.

        • Thomas R

          I am not as convinced of the amazing ability of LWOP or modern penal science. If you can prove that no one on LWOP ever killed anyone maybe I’d change my mind. Otherwise, sorry.

          • Thomas R

            Although I could see limiting it to people serving LWOP who kill, or attempt to kill, others.

  • New Hampshire was a state, that forbade Catholics to vote.

    Early America–pre- and post colonial– was mostly puritan and had quite a few anti-catholic laws on the books (in that regard, the supposed secular 1st Amendment may have helped out the catholic minority–). The young John Adams himself considered the Boston Massacre the work of “teagues”, mainly–i.e. irish catholics.

  • Alex

    I can tell Mark Shea was once a Protestant, not that he is without knowledge of Catholic teaching. He is just winging it, without quoting Catholic saints and martyrs, Church fathers. He just thinks that he can come to an understanding of libertarians, anew non-Christian some say they are a Christian group of people who embrace moral license, i.e. legalized prostitution, drugs, abortion given to the states, etc.
    I think that Mark Shea would make a good 21st century evangelical, if he has not already left the faith, he just says what he thinks or believes. The Church has a name for Mark, Protestant. Mark, at least quote Pious X on modernism.

    • Mark Shea

      Thank you for the bulletin from the fever swamps of Reactionary Traddery. Happily you are not a bishop, but Some Guy with a Keyboard.

      • Alex

        From a guy with a keyboard, cradle Catholic, to another guy with a keyboard, former protestant, you have much to learn about your new found faith in the Catholic Church. My advice to you is to study the faith, and not just come up with your own views of libertarians. Also, thanks for thinking that I am not a bishop, I never considered you to be one either.

        • Mark Shea

          I have been a Catholic for 24 years. Only the sort of jackass snob found in Rad Traddery calls that “newfound”. The difference between us is that I do not go around telling you that you probably aren’t Catholic. Bye, jerk.

  • Muckemdanno

    Wow, 7 uses of the word ‘kook’ in relation to Ron Paul. With friends like these, who needs enemies! Mark, too bad you don’t say ‘he’s kooky for this’ or ‘he’s kooky for that.’ It seems you agree with him about most of the things his opponents call him kooky about (loss of civil liberties, endless war, police state, etc.)

    You only specifically state that opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is ‘kooky’. You are wrong. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is THE cause of racial quotas. It’s bad law. It may be a sin to dislike people for being black, but the government should not try to regulate such a thing…when it does, you wind up with institutionalized “reverse” racism…enforced by law.

    • Mark Shea

      Thank you for that kooky remark. Yes. Failure to give Ron Paul unreserved worship is clearly enmity to him. It’s people like you who drive away allies. No wonder you lose.

  • Oregon Catholic

    “My vote will not change the outcome of the election, but it will change me if I choose to support the enemies of America…”

    I agree Mark and I too will vote my conscience – and place it in God’s hands to do with as He wills – without worrying if it hurts the GOP candidate. From where I sit, neither party represents me and both are morally bankrupt and corrupt and I refuse to help keep them in power purely out of misguided party loyalty. Two-party politics in DC is irredeemably broken and it’s time for a third option.

    Thanks for your cogent post. Many contradictory thoughts and feelings have been swirling in my head and heart and it has helped me see a path to take.

  • catharine

    Mark, I was sorry to learn that you have recently been diagnosed with Type II (adult-onset) diabetes. I have the same condition, and have been on insulin since 1996, most of that time without health insurance. If I can give you some free advice, bear in mind that all Type II diabetes is a game of insulin resistance. In the early stages, you can probably either reverse it or keep it under very decent control by diet & exercise. I would esp. advise you to not drink any soda pop & abstain from all empty calories. However, when the day comes, do not hesitate to go on insulin. But insulin will really make you put on weight, so better to control it by diet & exercise as long as you possibly can.

    This is a hideously expensive disease–if I could afford to get all of my prescriptions filled, which mostly I cannot, it would cost me over $1,300 per month. However, by taking my insulin faithfully, re-using syringes, and taking the other stuff (blood pressure medication, glaucoma eyedrops, etc.), 3x per week rather than 7, I find I still have pretty decent control.