Catholicism as a Source of Inspiration for Ideological Battle for Freedom


The book Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing has been my latest reading, about which I’ll write a comment in the following lines.

Such work, whose author is the Research Director of Acton Institute, Samuel Gregg, tries to convince about the fact that Catholic principles and teachings are compatible with free market, a limited government (minarchist principles) and the human flourishing (in other terms, prosperity).

Gregg makes a split into six chapters whose titles are, respectively, the following: Catholic and Free, An Economy of Freedom, Solidarity, Subsidiarity, and the State, The First Freedom, But What About…?, and A Patriotic Minority. Though I am not going to make a total paraphrasis about each one of them, I am going to tell some main ideas that anybody can extract from them along the article.

First of all, he considers Catholics can apport to the “much needed renewal of the movement for economic freedom and limited government throughout America” a “deeper and coherent understanding” about why the liberty matters, even in economical area. Precisely, paraphrasing the author, the following “thesis” can be demonstrated: the entrepeneurship and the free market economy are not only more efficient, but also agents that generate big opportunities for human flourishing; economical interventionism is not only uneffective, but also a threat for the moral culture and the human flourishing; there are better ways to help the needed people so it could be possible the contribution to integral development of assisted; a robust conception of religious freedom is essential for human flourishing and the restrainment of govern power; and the need of civil society strength and respect towards the institution of family.

Second, apart from refuting the Weberian thesis, according to that, Protestantism was a key factor in the rise of capitalism, remembering that “commercial spirit” priors to Reformation and the work of the School of Salamanca, it’s considered that the right to the economic initiative (often suppressed) does not only contribute to individual benefit, but also to the common good and the opportunity of being able to choose the moral good each one of us. That standpoint let the author to consider businesses as a sphere where people people can participate in the goods that define the humanity. Additionality, regarding the prudence, he goes into details and considers it such as something that implies reflexion and consultation as methods of study and identification of various appropiate methods to reach the end we have in mind, besides the formation of current election to make and the direction of the realisation of the action.

Third, he focuses on two basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching: solidarity (considered as the commandment of love to the neighbor like we would like to be loved as much as something that permits Catholics can resist the imposition or expanding of laws that attack the right to life since fecundation until natural death) and subsidiarity (when we have any problem, we shouldn’t go to government directly). He also reminds American Catholics were involved, “as generous financial contributors”, in initiatives or direct charity actions, to help the needed, before the public authorities began to assume those roles. As well, leaving aside the demonstrations of inefficiency of Welfare State to reduce the poverty and the consequent macroeconomic imbalances (debt and budgetary deficit), the effects upon the American moral culture are worrying, such as the disincentivization of work and the drop of marriages number. Notwithstanding, Gregg remarks that the disagree with certain methods does not “absolve” us from developing other methods that could be consistent with the protection of human freedom.

Fourth, it gives a key importance to religious freedom, which was one of the biggest achievements of American Revolution. Whatsmore, he considers it affects to issues such as the way to teach our children, the conversion to another religion and the way to live out our moral life. At the same time, he warns that if a religious institution depends on subsidies, it may have the risk of renounce to defend certain convictions and points Catholic Church does not bet on “stablishmentarism” (indeed, it’s important to remember that, despite certain episodies on which Church was trying to exert political power, the quote of Luke Gospel in which there’s a distinction between God’s and Caesar’s claims) but on non-confessionalism. Moreover, it’s remembered that cultural heritage derived from a religion can be perfectly supported in a non-confessional State (it does not consist in imposing all citizens the profession of determined beliefs), and that’s not necessary to be Catholic for subscribing the declaration of II Vatican Council about religious freedom.  

Fifth, important considerations about competence, social justice, trade unions and consumerism are made. The writer attributes to free competition “objectives of justice” such as the response to consumers demands, the availability of information that let us comparing products and the promotion of a more efficient use and conservation of resources and of innovation. Then, it dismisses any nexus between social justice and assistentialism; he considers it’s based on solidarity, something that depends on individuals (so-called “preferential option for the poor” is understood by Catholic as the recognising of the ability of the poor to reach the human flourishing and the fact it has reason and free will). In relation to trade unions, there’s only a reprobation towards the politicization and possible pressures to join in an specific trade union. While, regarding consumerism, it’s important to highlight there’s not an attempt to play down the material deprivation from which only free market can liberate us, but that this concept is understood as the obsession to acquire more and more goods (like the distinguish between egoism and rational self-interest).

Sixth, apart from differencing between patriotism and nationalism, it’s suggested that a country can bring opportunities to anybody that would like to emigrate to this for prosper. Nevertheless, it’s not a bet on non-controlled immigration (abolishing of national borders as a consequence) and it’s considered that there’s no right to admit the entrance of those that could be terrorists or criminals, nor anybody that could threat the liberties and the lives of the residents in welcome country or commit any action against the rule of law (neither the end based on taking benefits of Welfare State is also approved). Additionally, the author is critical towards supranational entities like the United Nations (UN) and the European Union. This latter is criticised because of the lack of democratic accountability of some European institutions and the attacks to subsidiarity principle. In fact, he expresses his worrying facing the fact many Americans are nervous and wonder if American sovereignty is subordinated to UN.

After having afforded the main ideas of this book, we can affirm we have very useful paragraphs to develop a set of arguments that permits us for doing the ideological battle from a non imbued by progressives perspective. Supporting the natural rights, among them there are freedom and property, does not have to imply embracing a relativism that materialises the human being, that does not defend its right to life since fecundation, that has been the responsible of multiculturalism, whose result has been the fact that Europe is now under a risk of islamization.

Now then, those arguments are not only useful to allow the consolidation of a conservative-libertarian trend, that does not only focus on economy, but also implies in pro-life and pro-family causes as in responses towards problems such as social engineering problems (imposition of gender ideology), attacks against Catholics and the risk of islamization of European continent. It must be also useful to convince Catholics who support economical interventionism (I do not refer exclusively to Pope Francis, who also is progressive”, but to distributists and some social democrat conservatives).

To sum up, I recommend the book to any interested in the relationship between classical liberalism and Catholicism issues, just like any conservative-libertarian that would like to foster its arguments.