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Catholics, Libertarians, and the Poor


In a previous post in this series, I detailed the hypocrisy that pervades statists with respect to the poor. While they claim to love the poor, needy, and disadvantaged, they abuse, mistreat, insult, incarcerate, round up, fine, and deport undocumented immigrants, who are among the poorest people in the world, people who are just following the God-given drive to sustain and improve their lives through labor by getting jobs with American employers who wish to hire them.

As I asked in that post, which is part of a series of articles I am writing in response to a conference held at the Catholic University of America entitled “Erroneous Authority: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism.” how in the world can any self-respecting Catholic associate himself with the statist position on immigration, especially give the Lord’s second-greatest commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself? It is only the libertarian position favoring open immigration — that is, freedom of travel, freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of contract, and economic liberty — that is consistent with fulfilling that commandment.

Statists try to ameliorate their sinful conduct against illegal immigrants by their support of socialism and fascism, which they claim is the way to help the poor. Unfortunately, however, not only is more sinful conduct inherent to their economic philosophy, their philosophy actually dooms people to poverty.

Why would Catholics want to be part of a philosophy that not only hurts the poor but is also inherently riddled with sin?

Statists complain that it’s just not fair that some people have more money while others have less. They want the state to equalize wealth by forcibly taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor.

Yet, ask yourself: What difference does it make that someone is wealthier than another person? It can make a difference in only one respect: When one falls victim to a grave sin enunciated in the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

And that is precisely what statists do when they say that it’s not fair for someone to have more when others have less. They are coveting the wealthy person’s wealth. They can’t stand the fact that he’s got a nicer home, automobile, television set, vacation home, and all the rest.

The sin is also called envy. Statists are envious of people who are richer than they are. They think it’s unfair.

And what is the process by which they achieve this equalization? Through stealing, another violation of one of God’s sacred commandments. They have the state use its power of coercion to seize the wealth of a rich person and then give it to a poor person (or to foreign dictator, as I pointed out in another segment of this series).

Oh sure, the stealing is legal but that certainly doesn’t make it moral.

Suppose I am coveting a billionaire’s wealth, saying that it’s just unfair that he has all that money when there are so many poor people in life. I accost him with a gun and force him to withdraw $100 million, which I give entirely to the poor.

What’s wrong with that? Aren’t I good person? Isn’t the billionaire a good person?

What’s wrong is it is that it constitutes stealing, another grave sin.

Statists say it’s different when the federal government takes the $100 million from the billionaire and gives it to the poor. But it’s not any different. Government cannot convert an immoral act into a moral act by committing it through the IRS or some other state agency. It remains stealing, pure and simple. The stealing is a direct consequence of the sins of envy and coveting.

The statists say that this is the way to help the poor — by having the government take money from the rich and giving it to the poor.

Actually, it’s the exact opposite. Socialism impoverishes a society. It’s the cause of poverty. It serves as the insurmountable obstacle to the poor going from rags to riches.

Look at Cuba, where the state took everything from the rich in order to give it to the poor. Or North Korea. What happened in those countries? Oh, it was fun and games for a while. That’s the way stealing works. The thief initially lives high off the hog — or the people who receive the loot do. But ultimately, society starts to cave in on itself. Less rich, and more poor, until everyone ends up poor.

The welfare state, of course, is just another variation of socialism — political stealing by having the government take from those who own and giving it to others (including foreign dictatorships). It might seem to work in the beginning but ultimately those on the dole increase and want more and more and more. The economy starts to cave in on itself.

Statists want to know the causes of poverty. That’s ridiculous. Poverty is the natural state of mankind. The real question is: What causes wealth — real wealth, not fake and bogus paper-money wealth? That the question statists never ask.

The answer:

First, capital, which comes about through savings, which makes workers more productive. More productivity brings higher standards of living.

Second, trade. When people are free to enter into mutually beneficial economic exchanges with others, their standard of living rises. That’s because in every trade people give up something they value less for something they value more.

There is also the fascist element to statist thinking — that is, having the government regulate, control, and direct economic activity.

Consider, for example, minimum-wage laws, one of the statists’ favorite government programs. It locks out of the labor market all those people whose labor is valued in the marketplace at less than the state-mandated wage rate. What happens to those people? They go unemployed. That’s why there is a permanent 40 percent unemployment rate for black teenagers. What about them? Statists say they can go on welfare. More likely, they enter the drug trade as a result of that other favorite statist program — the drug war.

When statists indict the American economic system, they claim that they’re indicting libertarianism and free markets. That’s a lie and a life of the lie. They are indicting their own economic philosophy — the philosophy of socialism and fascism — the economic system known as the welfare state and the regulated economy. That’s the economic system Americans have had since the New Deal in the 1930s.

The statist life of the lie is also reflected by the statist rendition on the Great Depression — that it supposedly was the failure of “free enterprise.” In actuality, it was the failure of statism, especially given that the Federal Reserve, whose policies brought on and worsened the Depression, is part of a statist system, not a libertarian system.

A libertarian economic system leaves people free to engage in any economic enterprise without a license or a permit, enter into mutually beneficial economic exchanges with others, keep the fruits of their earnings, and decide what to do with their own money. It treats immigrants humanely and in accordance with God’s second-greatest commandment. It doesn’t lure people into the drug trade and into penitentiaries. It doesn’t rely on envy, covetousness, and stealing.

Why would any Catholic want to be part of a system that covets and envies other people’s wealth, steals from them, condemns people to poverty, induces people into the drug trade, and abuses and mistreats poor people with an war on immigrants? How can such actions possibly be reconciled with anything Christ said or did?

They can’t be. Only libertarianism is consistent with Christian principles.

Catholics, Libertarians, and Coerced Charity by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholics, Libertarians, and the Drug War by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholics, Libertarians, and Immigration by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholic, Libertarians, and Foreign Aid by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholics, Libertarians, and Foreign Policy by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholics, Libertarians, and the Poor by Jacob G. Hornberger


This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.