Feb 162011
 

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C.S. Lewis

Earlier today I wrote a post about the Catholic Church’s teachings with respect to the bearing and raising of children, specifically as expressed by Pope Piux XI in his encyclical Casti Conubii. In the course to applying my amateur skills to parsing the text into more widely accessible terms, I found myself disagreeing with the Holy Father on several points related to the relationship between Church and State.

My ideals with respect to Church-State relations flow primarily from the maxim, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. What I regard as essentials are introduced in broad strokes via the Philosophy of Liberty. However, while the State arrogates to itself matters proper to the Church or the individual, a faithful member of the Church has a moral obligation to use civic means to prevent the State from participating in or protecting evil. Just how to go about doing that is the subject of much debate, however.

Rather than clutter up my post on family planning with digressions about politics, I’ve decided to write a separate post here. In order to better understand the context of these remarks, the reader is encouraged to read my other post, or at least the full text of the encyclical itself.

All emphases in the quoted text below are mine.

“37. …what the families and individuals are, so also is the State, for a body is determined by its parts. Wherefore, both for the private good of husband, wife and children, as likewise for the public good of human society, they indeed deserve well who strenuously defend the inviolable stability of matrimony.”

This is a rather pernicious conflation of State and society. Lincoln’s paean to a government allegedly “of the people, by the people, and for the people” notwithstanding, the State is not an organic extension of its citizens. It is not an emergent phenomenon generated by natural processes. It is not the product of voluntary society. It is law, and law entails force. That force is negative, not in the sense of a moral evil, but in that its proper scope it inhibits behavior.

Frederic Bastiat describes it this way in The Law:

“What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

“Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

“Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

“If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.

“Can the law — which necessarily requires the use of force — rationally be used for anything except protecting the rights of everyone? I defy anyone to extend it beyond this purpose without perverting it and, consequently, turning might against right. This is the most fatal and most illogical social perversion that can possibly be imagined. It must be admitted that the true solution — so long searched for in the area of social relationships — is contained in these simple words: Law is organized justice.

“Now this must be said: When justice is organized by law — that is, by force — this excludes the idea of using law (force) to organize any human activity whatever, whether it be labor, charity, agriculture, commerce, industry, education, art, or religion. The organizing by law of any one of these would inevitably destroy the essential organization — justice. For truly, how can we imagine force being used against the liberty of citizens without it also being used against justice, and thus acting against its proper purpose?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Since Bastiat so eloquently states ideas near to my own, I shall rely on him heavily for the remainder of this article.

Getting back to the relationship between the Church and the State with respect to marriage let’s see what Pius XI says.

Continue reading »

May 212010
 

Rand Paul (photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Recently the Republican nominee for one of Kentucky’s senate seat, Rand Paul, dared to question the 1964 passing of the Civil Rights Act (or did he?). This instantly made him a Very Bad Person™ in the eyes of progressives (not that having Ron Paul for a father is winning many popularity contests). Paul seemed to be defending the austro-libertarian contention that government intervention against prejudicial discrimination in the private sector is antithetical to the natural rights to freely associate and freely use private property.

Frederic Bastiat (public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Frederic Bastiat wisely said in Economic Harmonies, “Government acts only by the intervention of force; hence, its action is legitimate only where the intervention of force is itself legitimate.” The question at hand is whether or not governmental force is justified in forbidding discrimination.

Continue reading »

Nov 032009
 

Sometimes public humiliation is an appropriate punishment. To wit:

Women who stole from girl, 9, hold public signs of shame

“A woman and her daughter are outside the Bedford County Courthouse holding signs saying they stole a gift card from a 9-year-old girl on her birthday…which the girl set on a shelf while a Wal-Mart employee helped her.”

Shame benefits society by discouraging undesirable behavior. In this case it’ll keep two people out of tax-eating prisons. Hopefully, the perpetrators have learned a valuable lesson and will be better neighbors henceforth. Unfortunately, the girl will likely learn the wrong lesson from what happened to her.

“The girl’s mother planned to drive by the courthouse to teach her daughter the importance of obeying the law.”

Um, no. What’s important to learn is not be a petty, thieving scumbag. Teaching blind obedience to the law instills fear of getting caught without inspiring moral and ethical behavior.

Jun 222009
 

Entries from this blog are cross-posted to my Facebook account. My recent post on funding public education generated an interesting discussion there. I promised those involved that I would share their comments with others so that they might be answered by folks with different and/or better arguments than I. The following is a slightly edited version of the conversation, presented for your perusal and response. Continue reading »

Jun 192009
 

Libertarians take as axiomatic that every person has a natural right to be secure in his life, liberty, and property. Necessary to respect and protect these rights is the non-agression principle, which states that all interpersonal exchanges must be voluntary and coercion is immoral. Briefly, to take one’s life is to take one’s future, to take one’s liberty is to take one’s present, and to take one’s property (the product of one’s life and liberty) is to take the part of one’s past that produced or acquired that property. A lengthier explanation can be found in the “Philosophy of Liberty”.

This ethos is good so far as it goes, and I find it far more appealing than the interventionism (imperialistic paternalism abroad and socialist paternalism at home) I see taking over American government, but I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that it’s missing something. Libertarianism seems to me to be vulnerable to accusations of being the philosophy of the selfish. While objectivists might not object to such an accusation, I suspect most other libertarians would. Collectivists of various stripes argue that man, self-centered and self-serving as he is, cannot be trusted to adhere to non-aggression for very long without a least a little – and perhaps a great deal of – governance.

Continue reading »

Get Adobe Flash player