Thank you for the comments; these kinds of contributions end up becoming integrated into future thought pieces in interesting and unpredictable ways. I want to begin here by emphasizing that I’m hardly the first to have written on the topic of libertarianism and the American Catholic Church. Others have done so ahead of me (see for example Daniel Finn, “Libertarian Heresy: The Fundamentalism of Free-Market Theology,”Commonweal, September 08, 2008). Finn’s piece is excellent: it narrows on some crucial questions.
It is of course rather easy to think of political language and imagery as something irrational. What this leaves out, however, is the function of that imagery, as irrational as it may be. Here, we can instructively circle back to the arguments made during the 2012 election, as well as some of the points that continue to be made by the Tea Party and others on the libertarian right. We see the obsessional focus on the possessive individual.
I’m still thinking and writing about libertarianism, struggling not only with it – that is, to try and understand its origins and ramifications – but also against it. For me, these two things have become tied together. What surprises and alarms me in particular is its hold on some American Catholics; the Church just doesn’t seem to have an historical or conceptual framework that seems amenable to libertarian influence.