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.

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Sep 182009
 

I’m often challenged in political arguments with progressives, particularly on Twitter, to define socialism. My opponents claim that I’m abusing the term. I’m inclined to see such a claim as an example of conversational terrorism, but it happens often enough and I care enough about productive dialog that I’ve decided to relent and offer a definition. I might not have done so entirely to my satisfaction had I not been listening to an audiobook version of Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” this morning. I offer here his laudably simple and clear definition.

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