It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
A few weeks ago my chapter executive board and I presented a talk on “The Catholic Libertarian.” Our university, St. John’s University, is a Catholic and Vincentian university dedicated to spreading the mission of the Roman Catholic Church. Much of the Libertarian movement (although certainly not all of it) has an anti-religious under-current; because of our University’s Catholic and Vincentian identity and our own personal faith, our chapter executive board sought to reconcile Catholicism and Libertarianism. We created a presentation on four principles central to our Libertarian beliefs — and our Catholic faith.
The Golden Rule and the Non-Aggression Principle
Libertarians reject the notion that the government is entitled to a monopoly of violence or has a right to violate reason, the Natural Law, or the Golden Rule — these principles apply to everyone, including government officials. A government that deprives an individual of life, liberty, or property without prior consent violates reason, the Natural Law, and the Golden Rule.
As Jesus is undergoing crucifixion for our sins, he prays for the very soldiers that are executing him: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This prayer reveals Jesus holds the soldiers morally responsible for carrying out immoral orders. If this were not so, he would not have sought forgiveness on their behalf — the soldiers’ lack of self-awareness of their immoral actions is not sufficient for their forgiveness. The prayer indicates that the soldiers, and by proxy all state actors, are not without sin simply because they are unaware of the nature of their actions. Government officials must also follow the Golden Rule and cannot deprive an individual of life, liberty, or property.
Jesus told the rich to sell their own possessions for the poor, not their neighbors’; it is moral and good to reach into my own pocket to feed the poor, but reaching into my friend’s pocket is theft — yet this is what occurs when the government uses our tax money to pay for welfare. Jesus’s message was one of voluntary giving and charity, not one of coercion and force. In Matthew 20:15, Jesus said to the Disciples, “Am I not free to do what I want with my own money?” To be moral and laudable, the decision of charity must be a voluntary one.
There are times when we as Christians are called to give to the poor and the marginalized not for financial benefit, but because it is the right thing to do. Acts 2:24-25 and 4:32-35 describe communities of early Christians who share their possessions and give to the poor and the marginalized; these people were inspired not by a progressive income tax, but instead by the Holy Spirit. It is not the government’s job to care for the poor and the marginalized, their job is to protect their freedom to pursue their interests.
“Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”
St. Thomas Aquinas’s Just War Theory states seven requirements for a just war: just cause, just intention, last resort, formal declaration, limited objectives, proportionate means, and noncombatant immunity. These seven requirements are held by the vast majority of Libertarians as well. Libertarians believe in constitutionally declared war that limits non-combatant deaths and is used as a policy of last resort only when our national security is at stake.
Libertarian foreign policy follows the Non-Aggression Principle, which holds that any unsolicited actions of others that physically effect an individual’s property or person, no matter is the results of those actions are beneficial, neutral, or harmful, are considered violent or aggressive because they are against the owner’s free will and interfere with the right of self-determination and private property.
Morality and Money
The Bible is clear in Leviticus 19:35-36 that counterfeiting money is immoral and will lead to failure. Today’s fiat currency is not honest money. There are countless references in the Bible to sound currency with honest weights and measures (Proverbs 11:1, Proverbs 20:10, Leviticus 19:35-36, Michah 6:10-12). God’s warning against “cheating in measuring weights or quantities” serves as a warning not to interfere with the delicate monetary system. All fiat currency systems, like ours today, had lead to currency manipulation and artificial inflation of currency; the solution is honest metallic (or other commodity standard) currency.
1 Timothy 5:8 tells us to provide for our families. Today the average American pays 54.4% of their income to taxes! Imagine how more easily we could provide for our families if that burden were lifted! Proverbs 13:22 states that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children,” thus condemning estate taxes. “Bearing one another’s burdens” by giving to charity and properly ensuring ourselves (outlines in Galatians 6:2) would be much easier with a limited tax system (or better yet, none at all!). Jesus’s instructions to the tax collectors were “collect no more than the money prescribed for you” (Luke 3:13).
Are Catholicism and Libertarianism Reconcilable?
God gave humans the ultimate liberty — Free Will. With this Free Will, we as Catholics are free to live our lives as we see fit; freedom through Christ Jesus and the Truths of the Catholic Church come only through personal acceptance.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13