Like a bad commercial jingle that has become annoying ear worm, libs such as the catholic writers at the National Schismatic Reporter (aka Fishwrap) accuse anyone who favors expansive, dynamic free markets of being a Randian who hates the poor and – *GASP* – a libertarian. Being a libertarian is about the worst thing you could ever be! If you are a libertarian you don’t believe in any rules, you think that is great for the rich to oppress the poor, blah blah blah. If you are a libertarian you might even not want to vote for Hillary!
Actually, libertarian is a rather stupid label to throw around, but it’s effective amongst liberals. You see, liberals get the whole oppression thing. Liberal, after all, comes from the root “free”, as in, “I’m a liberal and you are free to agree with me… or else.”
But I digress.
Over at Public Discourse there is an offering by Sam Gregg of ACTON INSTITUTE about the meaning of “libertarian”. It isn’t what Fishwrappers claim.
Gregg makes some distinctions. He addresses himself to sources far more serious than the Fishwrap, by the way. In the original, over there at PD, you can follow the tantalizing links.
Markets, Catholicism, and Libertarianism
In a recent American Prospect article, John Gehring maintains that Catholics like myself who regard markets as the most optimal set of economic conditions are effectively promoting libertarian philosophy. Gehring’s concerns about libertarianism and what he calls “free market orthodoxy” have been echoed in other places.
The generic argument seems to be the following. Promoting market approaches to economic life involves buying into libertarian ideology. But libertarianism is at odds with Catholicism in important ways. This is especially apparent, the argument goes, in the age of Pope Francis. This pope has been very critical of free markets. To dispute aspects of Francis’s reflections on economic matters thus involves placing yourself at odds with the Pope in the name of libertarianism, a position that no faithful Catholic should want to be in.
What these critics seem to miss is that a favorable assessment of markets and market economics need not be premised on acceptance of libertarianism in any of its many forms.
Libertarianism’s great strength lies in economics. Prominent twentieth-century libertarian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, made major contributions to the critique of socialist economics. While ridiculed by some at the time, their criticisms turned out to be spot-on.
In Socialism (1922), for example, Mises illustrated that socialist economies can’t replicate the market price system’s ability to signal the supply and demand status for countless goods and services to consumers and producers at any one point in time. However intelligent and statistically equipped the top-down planners might be (whether they take the form of a Communist politburo, a Fascist dictator, or a 1970s British government), they simply cannot know the optimal price for any good or service at any point in time. Any attempt to dictate prices from the top-down will lead, paradoxically, to economic disorder and dysfunction.
Hayek’s contributions to economic thought are legion. They range from his work on business cycles to monetary theory. One of Hayek’s most significant economic insights concerned the unworkability of centrally planned economies. He called this “the knowledge problem.” The dispersed information and data held by millions of individuals and groups in a given economy, Hayek held, can only be fully utilized in a decentralized economic system characterized by competition and pricing: i.e., a market.
Given the twentieth century’s economic history, the validity of such insights by these scholars is difficult to deny. The truth of their economic views, however, isn’t dependent upon accepting libertarianism as a comprehensive philosophical position.
Philosophically speaking, Mises associated himself, especially in Human Action (1949), with Epicureanism and utilitarianism. Hayek’s views were more complicated.
Read the rest there.
Further down he gets into Pope Francis and his economic views. Very interesting.