Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Catholicism and Libertarianism
There is an interesting article by Daniel Finn (Professor of Theology and Economics at St. John's MN) on the tension between secular libertarianism and Catholic moral theology called "Libertarian Heresy: The Fundamentalism of Free-Market Theology" in the most recent issue of Commonweal. Finn is particularly concerned with the argument that using law to compel a particular action deprives that action of its voluntariness, and thus of its moral significance.
[T]his is a thoroughly un-Catholic view of law and morality, directly contrary, for example, to longstanding Thomistic tradition. Aquinas taught that virtue entails a constant will to act rightly, and that those who don’t learn virtue from their parents need the “discipline of laws” to keep them “restrained from evil by force and fear.” Significantly, Thomas adds that unvirtuous men, “by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous.” If law can “habituate” even the unvirtuous to act out of virtue, then surely the virtuous individual can act voluntarily and virtuously in spite of a law that would constrain him if he needed it.