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The Pope Should Embrace, not Condemn, Libertarianism

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As a recovering Catholic, I normally couldn't care less about what the Pope has to say. I am no longer a child interested in the fairy tales he has to sell. Unfortunately, he is still an important figure in this world and many human beings are influenced by his words. When he attacks a movement, organization or philosophy that is different from his own, there is a potential that thousands, if not millions, will rally to his call and heed his warnings, shutting their minds off to new or different ideas that could help humanity find peace, that could help secure the common good, not threaten it. His recent comments about the nature of libertarianism is one such example.


According to an article in Breitbart entitled "Pope Francis Warns Against 'Invasion' of Libertarianism," Pope Francis warned that libertarianism minimized the common good. Such a damning statement suggests to me that either the Pope doesn't fully understand the philosophy behind libertarianism and other freedom seeking movements, or that he is purposely trying to misinform in order to shore up support of age old authoritarian philosophies. I am willing to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt and assume the former rather than the latter despite what the history of the organization he leads might suggest and despite that he is in a position of authority himself and may be trying to preserve that power. I try not to judge the individual, but I can see very well the judgment of the institutions.

Since I am assuming the Pope doesn't fully understand the philosophy of libertarianism, I'm going to start by examining the most basic principle of libertarianism, the non aggression principle. Simply put, the non aggression principle, or NAP, states that one will not initiate aggression against another. To a Catholic, or any Christian for that matter, this principle should sound quite familiar. I believe in the annuls of Christianity this principle is phrased something like, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Now there might be little nuances in language that will slightly change the meanings of the two phrases, but I think that we can nearly all agree that the basic meaning of both philosophies is simply put as "Live and let live."

It is for this reason I am willing to give the Pope the benefit of the doubt. I do not wish to initiate any aggression with my words even though these words are in defense of the libertarian philosophy. And while I'm not some high paid libertarian news personality, of which there are too few, I do have the potential to reach millions, just like anyone else with access to the Internet. It is for this reason that I am reminded of another maxim. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. And while this pope may be a good person with good intentions, the institution he represents has a long history of violence and deception, not to mention he was part of one of the more shady arms of that institution.

How often have libertarian ideologues gone around Europe forcing people through torture and the threat of being burned at the stake to reject their believe system and convert? How many people have died so that a libertarian government or institution could remain in power? Very few, if any, throughout all of history and certainly none that would have initiated the violence. Authoritarian institutions, like the Catholic church, with a top down model of governance and a powerful sovereign at the head, have murdered great numbers of individuals, many innocent of doing anything violent against said institutions, throughout the bloody history of humanity. For what? So the powerful and influential can remain atop the economic food chain? So those institutions wouldn't collapse on themselves? So certain secrets and truths could remain hidden from the masses? Whatever the excuses, it has been the authoritarians and the collectivists who have been the scourge of humanity throughout history, not libertarian minded individuals looking for more freedom and a better way of life.

Pope Francis claims libertarians are selfish, but it is not selfish to want to be a self. It is not selfish to want to decide who one wants to associate with. It is not selfish to wish to decide for one's self how and where one should spend one's earnings. It is not selfish to want to be left alone, to not want to associate with certain people or the institutions they represent. It is selfish to use force or the threat of force to take what you want. It is selfish to wish to control the minds of many in order to keep power. It is selfish to force yourself on others and make them live as you see fit through regulation.

Trust is earned. It is earned through honesty and good deeds. It is earned through keeping promises made. It is earned through allowing others to be themselves and honoring the decisions they make for their own lives. Trust is also reciprocal. I will trust you as long as you prove your trustworthiness, and I expect you to give me the same courtesy. Why should I trust your governance when you don't trust mine?

When someone as powerful as Pope Francis makes a public declaration against something as benign as libertarianism I have to wonder why. Does he really see a philosophy centered around peace and voluntary interactions as such a threat to humanity? I don't think so, but he may see it as a threat to authoritarian institutions like the church he represents. People like peace, and they like freedom. They have been trying to achieve a free society for millennia and authoritarians always manage to creep in and spoil the soup. People are tired of the corruption these institutions breed and want to be free of them. People are tired of the secrets they keep and wish for justice. People are tired of the privilege members of such institutions are granted and the limited liabilities that protect them from accounting for their crimes and misdeeds. People long to be free though many may not know it, or may even be afraid of freedom.

In a way, I feel good that Pope Francis decided to address this at the meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences this year. It shows me that libertarianism is a philosophy that is gaining popularity worldwide. It has some of the bigwigs worried. Perhaps that's a signal that humanity is ready for the peace and freedom such a philosophy embraces. Perhaps the Pope should join his flock and embrace that philosophy, too. In doing so he would show that he truly cares about the masses of humanity. I believe that such a philosophy practiced by the masses would do more for the common good than the church and all its opulence ever could. The fact that those who sit in the seats of power are worried about those of us who seek freedom brings me hope that the future is not lost to the ubiquitous oligarchy that seems to have invaded every aspect of our modern lives, including the spiritual.


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Last Updated on Thursday, 04 May 2017 10:23