September 24, 2012

Murray Rothbard's View

Interesting post on Catholic political thought via a Jewish atheist: (found on American Catholic - I'm a sucker for these "Catholics are from Venus, Protestants from Mars" type views):
Traditionalist Catholics are typically not fans of Murray Rothbard. And yet as I read more of his work, I find more reasons to appreciate Rothbard’s insights into political theory, which I believe were shaped by a deeper appreciation for the Catholic political and philosophical tradition than some are willing to admit. It is easy to see Rothbard as nothing more than a secular Jewish atheist who opposed “the Old Order” and supported unrestricted personal liberty. And yet he spent his final years advocating for Pat Buchanan’s presidential run and his socially conservative platform.

That there is an affinity for Catholicism in Rothbard’s thought is not surprising. He identifies the Catholic countries, above all Austria, as the originators of subjective-utility economics, while Protestant countries such as Britain developed more labor-centric economic theories. The Catholic tradition had identified consumption (in moderation) as a worthwhile activity and goal; the Calvinist tradition emphasized hard labor as the primary good and consumption as a necessary evil at best. He writes:
Conversely, it is no accident that the Austrian School, the major challenge to the Smith-Ricardo vision, arose in a country that was not only solidly Catholic, but whose values and attitudes were still heavily influenced by Aristotelian and Thomist thought. The German precursors of the Austrian School flourished, not in Protestant and anti-Catholic Prussia, but in those German states that were either Catholic or were politically allied to Austria rather than Prussia.
Rothbard did not limit his religious comparisons to economic theory alone. In exploring the history of the United States, he identified two major religious-political tendencies of the 19th century: the evangelical “Yankee” pietism of Protestant New England, and the “liturgism” of Catholic immigrants and some high-church Protestants such as German Lutherans. The Yankee pietists were obsessed with using the power of the state to create God’s kingdom on Earth and aid the individual in his struggle for salvation. The “liturgists”, on the other hand, saw the local parish and the family as primarily responsible for moral life and salvation.
The liturgicals saw the road to salvation in joining the particular church, obeying its rituals, and making use of its sacraments; the individual was not alone with only his emotions and the state to protect him. There was no particular need, then, for the state to take on the functions of the church. Furthermore, the liturgicals had a much more relaxed and rational view of what sin really was; for instance,excessive drinking might be sinful, but liquor per se surely was not.
It seems safe to say that Rothbard, in his efforts to understand the intellectual roots of libertarian thought, found plenty to admire in the Catholic tradition

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