The Atlantic publishes a video on The Church Militant

The video is entitled “Church Militant: Right-Wing Media Empire in the Making”.

On the whole, it is a well-balanced short documentary. It allows Michael Voris and his organization to speak for themselves on what they believe. It also shows Voris as a human being who has fought his own demons and has worked tirelessly to care for his parents as they have dealt with cancer and aging.

One thing that struck me about Voris is that while his Catholicism is quite traditional, Church Militant operates very much in the spirit of how John Paul II acted while he was pope.

Voris and the Church Militant propose rather than impose. They make arguments, and they explain why they hold their positions. While they call out sins as sins, they do not seek to hurt anyone. If anything, Church Militant views their mission as saving as many souls as possible.

I’m sure that Church Militant’s views will not resonate with The Atlantic’s liberal audience. However, I’d go so far as to say that the manner in which Church Militant goes about their proselytizing is rational and respectful of each individual’s ability to think and decide for themselves the best course of action.

We certainly can not control how people react to an argument. However, we can control how we conduct ourselves when we make our own arguments.

In my humble opinion, Michael Voris and his colleagues at Church Militant are very good models of how one should conduct themselves when presenting controversial views to a hostile audience.

 

Did you know libertarianism is incompatible with Catholicism?

Me neither!

Fortunately, Holy Inquisitor Mark Shea has cleared it up for us:

Libertarianism is the religious superstition that individualists don’t need the help of society, that the state only does evil, and that your average FOX brainwashing victim on a fixed income will be fine because the 1% totally care about him and certainly will defend him when the Party of Trump robs him of Social Security and Medicaid.

He writes more, but it’s at the same level of detritus as the above.

There are three points I’d like to make about the above gordian knot of silly accusations disguised as a series of indignant j’accuses! against the demon spawn known as libertarians.

First, to claim that individualists don’t need the help of society is hogwash. If anything, the opposite is true. Civilization flourishes through voluntary interaction, not coercion. The economy, which provides the material support for a civilization, flourishes through the division of labor, the nexus of exchange, and the accumulation of capital. Libertarians simply believe that none of these three functions require the state, which is a monopoly of violence in a given society.

Second, regarding the nature of the state, need I remind Mr. Shea of Augustine’s observations on the matter in the City of God?

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor.” (Book IV, Chapter 4)

I’ll address Shea’s accusation about how libertarians view the state once he addresses how Augustine views it.

Finally, where in the hell does Shea get the idea that Trump wants to get rid of Social Security and Medicare? Because Shea clearly knows, or at least ought to, that Trump has no intention of getting rid of either.

When Donald Trump was elected president in November, it was on the heels of numerous campaign promises. One of those key promises was that he would leave Social Security and Medicare as is. Trump has suggested that America has an obligation to its seniors to honor its commitment to pay their Social Security benefits.

And yet Trump’s assurances about both programs don’t prevent Shea from conflating that a) Trump really really does want to eliminate them, and b) libertarians control Fox (if only), and 5) the 1% really want free markets, when more and more of them have become rich through crony capitalism.

(By the way, Mark, crony capitalism means that big companies use government connections to create laws and regulatory burdens that reduce competition and increase profits. For them. Just so we’re clear.)

Beyond the ridiculousness of the above sentence, there’s one particular string of words, which when written by a more charitable writer would be called a paragraph, I want to address.

Libertarianism is Murray Rothbard’s belief that a child is a parasitic invader with no right to life because it cannot pay its parents for the property and labor it demands in order to be carried to term and raised to adulthood. If they choose to do so, they may. But if they decide to abort it or drive the child to a remote location and abandon it they may do that too. They owe it nothing.

It may come as a mild surprise to Mr. Shea that libertarians, who believe individuals have free will, do not always agree with Rothbard.

I mean, it’s not like Rothbard is a god or anything…

Sure, he wrote profusely, and was a genius when it came to economics and political philosophy. However, my Catholicism (you know, Mark, the thing you claim that I don’t believe) informs my strong disagreement with his view that a pregnant woman has the right to abort her child.

Father Jim Sadowsky, who taught philosophy at Fordham and was a friend of Rothbard, disagreed with him strongly about abortion as well:

But is the infant a trespasser the moment his presence in the womb is no longer desired? Does he have no right to be there? Murray [Rothbard] and Walter [Block] simply assume that the infant has no right to be in the womb. Yet it is by no means evident that their answer is the correct one. To say that x is trespassing is to say that he is somewhere where he ought not to be. But where should a foetus be if not in its mother’s womb? This is its natural habitat. Surely people have a right to the means of life that nature gives them? If the home in which the infant grew were outside the mother’s body, we should all see that to expel him from that home would be to deprive him of the nature-given means of life. Why should the fact that his nature-given home lies within a woman’s body change the situation? What is a woman’s womb for except to house the infant’s body? It is nature that gives the child this home, this means of life. When we cast him out, we are depriving him of that which nature gave him. To do this is to violate his rights.

However, that did not stop Sadowsky from being attracted to Rothbard’s libertarian thinking. As David Gordon wrote in his obituary of Father Sadowsky:

What attracted him to the libertarian point of view was its individualism: libertarianism rejects the notion of a collective interest apart from that of individual persons. In this he found echoes of one of his favorite thinkers among the scholastics, Francisco Suarez, who maintained that political authority rests on consent. If this idea were followed to its full implications, Sadowsky thought, it would lead to anarchism, an implication he fully accepted.

You remember the scholastics, right, Mark? Or did they advocate child killing as well?

Frankly, Shea’s schtick against libertarianism is getting really, really old. It is uninformed, uncharitable, and in the end, boring.

I am going to close this post to repeat my plea.

I don’t mind if Catholics don’t agree with libertarianism. I do, however, reject any attempt to demonize an otherwise compatible political philosophy with Catholicism simply because one decides not to view it and its adherents charitably.

Hopefully, at some point, Mr. Shea will be willing to talk to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who just happen to have a different perspective than him, in the manner they deserve.

Until then, talk to the hand.

 

 

Mark Shea is dead wrong about “libertarian brutalism”, whatever the hell that means

I honestly don’t know what has happened to Mark Shea lately. He used to be a happy-go-lucky spiritual warrior who was a tremendously effective Catholic apologist.

Now I’m afraid he is just a crank.

The latest example of Shea’s crankiness is his latest post, in which he shows a cartoon that he claims shows “everything wrong with Libertarian brutalism”.

He finishes the post with the following rant:

At the end of the day, what Libertarian brutalism means is a) my stuff matters more than your life, even when I don’t need it and b) my *feeling* of stooping down and being generous for putting five bucks in a GoFundMe (if the mood takes me) is more important than having five bucks taken from my paycheck by the state to ensure that your kid doesn’t die from leukemia.  For the libertarian face with human need, it is not the human being in need that matters, but me, me, ME!

Libertarian….brutalism???

What is this Libertarian brutalism of which he speaks so….brutally? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

The phrase originated in a long, pretentious, and boring essay Jeffrey Tucker wrote in 2014 entitled “Against Libertarian Brutalism”. Tucker divided libertarians by those who cared about other people (“humanitarians”) and those who don’t (“brutalists”).

These two impulses are radically different. The first values the social peace that emerges from freedom, while the second values the freedom to reject cooperation in favor of gut-level prejudice. The first wants to reduce the role of power and privilege in the world, while the second wants the freedom to assert power and privilege within the strict confines of private property rights and the freedom to disassociate.

Tucker even pulled a guilt-by-association stunt by equating brutalists with, I-kid-you-not, butt-ugly buildings.

What is brutalism? The term is mostly associated with an architectural style of the 1950s through the 1970s, one that emphasized large concrete structures unrefined by concerns over style and grace. Inelegance is its main thrust and its primary source of pride. Brutalism heralded the lack of pretense and the raw practicality of the building’s use. The building was supposed to be strong not pretty, aggressive not fussy, imposing and not subtle.

Brutalism in architecture was an affectation, one that emerged from a theory robbed of context. It was a style adopted with conscious precision. It believed it was forcing us to look at unadorned realities, an apparatus barren of distractions, in order to make a didactic point. This point was not only aesthetic but also ethical: It rejected beauty on principle. To beautify is to compromise, distract, and ruin the purity of the cause. It follows that brutalism rejected the need for commercial appeal and discarded issues of presentation and marketing; these issues, in the brutalist framework, shield our eyes from the radical core.

I told you the essay was boring.

The problems with Tucker’s approach

There are two really big problems with Tucker’s classification of libertarians.

First, all the libertarian does is apply the Non-Aggression Principle when evaluating political action. The NAP says that people, including governments and their agents, must not initiate force to pursue a political goal. (One would think a Christian would appreciate that.) It ultimately doesn’t matter why a libertarian insists on the NAP. As the author of the Anarchist Notebook writes:

Libertarian anarchy is not a social revolution. It is a political philosophy that respects people’s rights and requires consent before one has authority over another. That is it.

I fail to see what crime a person commits when acting according to this philosophy.

Second, for a so-called libertarian to divide libertarians between goody two-shoe humantarians and demon-spawn brutalists is to make a grave category error: the presumption that one can to peer into the hearts of others to determine their intent.

In fact, the entire premise behind Austrian economics, which informs libertarianism, is that one cannot objectively understand what a person thinks, but one can observe how a person acts. Praxeology, as developed by Mises, is the intellectual framework with which one can observe and evaluate human action, including political action.* To evaluate why someone does what they do is a fool’s errand lacking in humility, and can only lead to unnecessary conflict.

Demonizing a different perspective

Beyond the two major problems with Tucker’s approach to categorizing libertarians, Shea’s criticism of libertarians is inaccurate, uncharitable, and, frankly, grotesque in two ways.

First, Shea’s lack of economic understanding is shocking when compared to the knowledge Catholic scholars developed during the Late Scholastic period of the 16th and 17th centuries. Theologians such as Luis de Molina (1535–1600), Domingo de Soto (1494–1570), Leonardo Lessio (1554–1623), and Juan de Mariana (1536–1624) applied their religious and philosophical talents to the practical problems that arose in the marketplace, and generally came up with free-market solutions. In fact, Joseph Schumpeter argued in his History of Economic Analysis that these scholar-priests are the ones “who come nearer than does any other group to having been the ‘founders’ of scientific economics.”

Second, Shea’s characterization of libertarians as selfish, insensitive brats who don’t care about the lives of others is insulting and disgusting. Shea’s ignorance of economics doesn’t detract from the grotesque manner in which he characterizes people, whose only crime is that they have another different political perspective than him.

A plea

If someone is going to criticize my political perspective, it would be helpful if that person actually understand it before doing so. It will lessen the likelihood of characterizing it in an uncharitable manner, which, unfortunately, Shea did in his latest post.

* It is true that the study of economics, or what Mises calls “catallactics”, is a far more developed branch of praxeology than the study of political action. However, underlying praxeological concepts such as the action axiom and the law of diminishing marginal utility can also be applied to political action.