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The Church and the Libertarian: A Defense of the Catholic Church's Teaching on Man, Economy, and State Paperback – July 15, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Remnant Press; 1st edition (July 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004UI30P0
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,883,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric Jackson on March 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
When one reflects on the history of Austrian economics, one can't help but think of the story of the early Church. The unorthodox school was started in the late nineteenth century Austria--though its adherents claim that some of its insights were appreciated long before by the Spanish scholastics. Carl Menger and Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk provided the material for the later synthesis by Ludwig von Mises; Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek was also a member of the school. During this first wave, the Austrians were taken quite seriously, but their popularity waned as defense of the free market fell out of favor. Mises, who was Jewish, was compelled to leave, first Austria, then Switzerland, making his way to the United States. There he reworked his opus, publishing Human Action to little fanfare in 1949.

It would be a misnomer to insist that things looked grim for the Austrian school, because there was no school at this time: it was just Mises. But the last knight of liberalism managed to secure a job teaching at NYU through the Volker fund. The disciples he gathered there were able to ensure that his system would not be regulated to the dustbin of history. Today, the Ludwig von Mises Institute provides articles, books and courses furthering the cause of the Austrian school of economics. Thanks to the advocacy of congressman Ron Paul, the teachings of this school are reaching a large audience.

Enter Christopher Ferrara with his book, The Church and the Libertarian, in which he seeks to combat the errors of the Austrians, be they economic or ethical. He also provides a defense of Church teaching, utilizing various encyclicals from Rerum Novarum through Caritas in Veritate. This Ferrara does exceedingly well.
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Format: Paperback
As someone who converted from Objectivism to Catholicism in 2004, and acquired much of his economic knowledge from the Austrian School before his conversion, I was particularly interested in this book, which questions the claims of Austrian economics in the name of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Soon after my conversion, I had read Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s «The Church and the Market», and I thought that it had settled the issue: I did not need to scuttle everything I understood about economics, economics was a science, and I could keep it just as I could keep my knowledge of evolutionary theory or any other science.

However, things may be a little more complex than I used to think. Ferrara does agree with much of what the Austrians have to say, but he also shows that, whenever they impinge on ethics or politics (often under the guise of doing «value-free» science), they go against Church teaching. Ludwig von Mises, the leading figure of the movement, after whom the Mises Institute was named, was a strongly anti-Christian secular Jew. And even though Woods and Llewellyn Rockwell are self-professed Catholics, they hold positions on social issues that do seem to be at variance with the Magisterium.

The problem with Ferrara's book, though, is that it fails to actually refute Austrian economics per se. Ferrara is fond of repeating that Woods does not have a degree in economics (he «only» has a PhD in history), but he himself is no expert on the subject and he even warns readers that «this book is not concerned with `economics' as an academic discipline involving such technical matters as supply and demand curves and schedules» (p11.
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Interesting book. I only purchased this because it was required for a class. The writing style feels at times a bit amateur, less like a textbook and more like a blog. The writer's sympathies are with traditionalist Catholicism and the website that supports the book is a bit questionable in terms of its orthodoxy (though supposedly not schismatic). If you are sensitive to that sort of thing, get a used copy like I did to be on the safe time.

While I did not go over the book with a fine tooth comb, it basically attacks the viewpoints of those (especially professed Catholics) who support modern "Libertarianism" and instead defends Distributist views of politics and the economy. No one is likely to agree with everything in the book, but it could provide fodder for a discussion on these topics, especially within a Catholic context.
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Format: Paperback
I have read this book closely, along with books by Tom Woods and others advocating the so called "libertarian" agenda, and I find this book to be absolutely essential, and I hope it receives wide readership within the Church.

Some background about me. I am a former libertarian. In graduate school I discovered libertarian ideas and was struck by how clear and simple they made the world seem. As a student of the social sciences, I had a formula that was 100% foolproof, and enabled me to make sense of any social question.

The formula was this: The state holds a legal monopoly on the use of force and is therefore incredibly dangerous and based on violence. Free markets operate with coercion and are therefore infinitely superior and ought to be operate with no government interference at all. The end.

I learned quickly that is was easy, once this formula was mastered, to plug in any social question and write cogent well thought out and well argued papers. Some of conclusions one draws following this approach are sound. I am still opposed to zoning laws for instance largely because of arguments I mastered utilizing the libertarian paradigm. But to say that it is a simplistic formula, and certainly entirely ideological as opposed to scientific, would be an understatement.

As I grew deeper in my Catholic faith as I discovered what the Church had always taught on moral questions such as contraception, I started to question many of my prior libertarian assumptions. Having children, raising them, hoping for their future, and trying to provide for them, teaches one lessons one can learn no where else. I looked at my grandfather's America, and spoke with people of his generation, and learned a few things.
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