In a recent memo to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Pope Francis declared war on libertarians, stating, “I cannot fail to speak of the grave risks associated with the invasion of the positions of libertarian individualism at high strata of culture and in school and university education.”
While the boogieman that he describes as libertarian may well exist—even in libertarian circles—it’s not the consummate libertarianism that we profess at The Libertarian Catholic and I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would self-identify as the type that he describes.
In his message, he describes libertarianism as an “antisocial” ideology that asserts, “only the individual gives value to things and to interpersonal relations and therefore only the individual decides what is good and what is evil.”
Thus, the libertarian individual denies the value of the common good,” the pontiff stated, “because on the one hand he supposes that the very idea of ‘common’ means the constriction of at least some individuals, and on the other hand that the notion of ‘good’ deprives freedom of its essence.”
It may be true that if someone denied the common good, that would be dangerous, but this appears to be a fictional character. Every libertarian I know places the common good at the fore—they just see libertarianism (as opposed to statism) as the best path to that common good.
Pope Francis suggested that all relationships that create ties to others [or God] must be eliminated, “since they would limit [the ultimate libertarian goal of] freedom.”
While freedom certainly is a pillar in libertarianism, the foundation is Vulnero Nemo, or the Non-Aggression Principle, which states that it is illegitimate to initiate harm against another. Yes, libertarians promote freedom, but only to the extent that that freedom is harmless: my freedom to swing my fist ends at your nose. [Please read the Summa of The Libertarian Catholic to find out how the two institutions are complementary]
It’s clear that with this missing piece of the libertarian philosophy, Pope Francis is condemning a fictitious straw man.
Unfortunately, it comes at a time when the world needs libertarianism the most. When the alternative philosophy (coercive socialism) is wreaking havoc on countries like Venezuela and slowing eating away at the United States, we need to reinforce the principles of liberty that have helped to benefit civilization so much since their introduction.
Pope Francis: if you really care about the common good, you need to support libertarianism.