We Catholics all know that the Church is bigger than any one political party, bigger even than a single nation or political system. It is a commonplace that many Catholics in the United States tend to vote for the Democrats (generally because they see the Democratic Party as being more supportive of anti-poverty programs) and many other Catholics tend to vote for the Republicans (generally because they see the Republican Party as being more pro-life and more supportive of traditional morality).
When I reflect upon these facts over morning coffee, I often wistfully imagine what it might be like if Catholics would only unify and bloc-vote for candidates that are both pro-life and also serious about social justice and poverty relief in all its various forms. No such “Catholic Party” exists, but one recent morning it occurred to me that the opposite of the Catholic Party does exist. It is a party that believes that the State should leave people alone about issues of morality and also stop asking people to contribute any significant percentage of their income to the common good. This is a party that is socially liberal and economically conservative. It is the Libertarian Party.
This realization prompted me to wonder, “Can a good Catholic who really follows the teachings of Christ and his Church embrace Libertarianism without offending the dictates of a well-formed Catholic conscience?” Libertarianism is, after all, a strongly individualistic creed that is highly compatible with an atomistic society of solitary units that have little claim on one another. The Catholic Church seems to represent the opposite extreme, because her creed requires the faithful to die to self, hand over their entire existence, and spend their lives in service of family and community. Christians, it seems to me, are required to choose the cheaper, less ostentatious car and donate more to feed the poor, and so on. None of us do this sort of thing consistently, of course, or else we would all be saints and the world would be a much better place. But, whatever our personal failings, our creed leads us in the direction of self-sacrifice.
Libertarianism, by contrast, is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Libertarianism says I should be able to keep my money, spend it on 10 Ferraris, crash 9 of them, and spray paint the 10th with polka dots if I want, and not feel bad about it. What’s mine is mine, and leave me alone you grasping lay-abouts!
Or something like that. I must confess that I don’t really understand Libertarianism. I often find myself agreeing with Libertarian candidates like Ron Paul on about 8 out of 10 things they say, but that 9th and that 10th are doozies. So, maybe I just don’t understand Libertarianism.
So, I conclude this short piece with a question to you, gentle readers: can Catholics vote Libertarian and sleep well at night? I truly do not know how they could, but maybe I am just missing something.
Joe L. Fulwiler is a bankruptcy attorney in Austin, Texas. He holds a degree in Economics from Yale, a law degree from Columbia, and an MBA from Stanford, and he maintains a bankruptcy information site called www.BankruptcyStrategy.com. He is admitted to (and a frequent customer of) the bars of New York, New Jersey, and Texas. He is also a CPA, a Papist, a grand multipara (male version), and a jedi.