Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Shea, Hargrave and Libertarianism

When I heard that Joe Hargrave and Mark Shea were exchanging broadsides on the topic of libertarianism, I thought that this would be one of those guilty pleasures to read in which two excitable authors go picnicking on one another. What I found was something a bit different.

Mark Shea apparently opened the discussion with a post whose closing I will quote to give a good sense of the tone.
The trick that Catholics influenced by libertarian ideology (aka heresy) need to master is this: instead of ransacking Catholic teaching for the subsidiarity bits that happen to comport with libertarian heresy, instead embrace the fullness of Catholic teaching, including the Church’s teaching on solidarity, the common good, and the legitimate role of the state.

Joe Hargrave replied in Crisis. Here's his closing, for comparison:
All of this is to say that complex economic and ethical issues cannot be resolved by shouting “heresy!” It would be antithetical to the spirit of Catholicism to suggest that anything other than the common good ought to be the ultimate goal of economic policies. It would also be antithetical to the spirit of Catholicism to suggest that there is only one way to promote it, and that all other ways are automatically heretical and forbidden. Libertarianism is only a “heresy” in the same way that every other idea becomes a heresy; when it is taken to irrational extremes or when it explicitly rejects a fundamental teaching of the Church. There is no reason why any self-identified libertarian has to do either.

Shea then took to Facebook to respond and basically repeated himself:
I recognize that there is no libertarian magisterium and that people pick and choose bits that they like--and that lots of people influenced by libertarianism are very nice people and very good Catholics. I also recognize that all they are doing is selecting bits and pieces from Catholic Magisterial teaching and that the more Catholic you become the less Libertarian, while the more Libertarian you become, the more like Murray Rothbard you become. My solution: ditch Libertarian heresy and just stick with the fullness of Catholic teaching.

Shea clearly comes off as the one taking the low road here, while Hargrave writes a reasonable post and wisely resists the urge to follow Shea into accusing everyone he doesn't agree with of being a heretic. Shea's writing has been heading down hill for a long time, but I was nonetheless surprised by the contrast here.


Kristin said...

I think that's why I stopped reading Shea; he's always been passionate and opinionated, but it seems like he doesn't even consider that the opposition may not be irrational or wicked. Plus, he keeps repeating the same things: "heresy," "stop worshiping your intellect and start using it", and so on.

Paul Zummo said...

You hit on why Shea bothers me so much. It's not that he espouses viewpoints that I disagree with - in fact in the torture debate I agree more substantially with his position than his opponents - but rather that he is so intellectually dishonest. He has absolutely no charity when it comes to those he disagrees with. I admit that this can be a failing of mine as well, but as snarky and sarcastic as I can be, his blog is just one snarky post after another until you just about choke on the ill humor.

Now contrast Shea's rebuttal with the one that Joe more recently posted from Gabriel Sanchez, and you can see what a remarkable difference there is.

Cojuanco said...

I'll be the devil's advocate here (kinda) and say that I think the reason Shea gets so bugged by Catholic libertarianism, and a good part of the Catholic Right is that for several years now (and it peaked with the 2012 election) he's had people basically say he's "not really Catholic" for criticizing people who seem to show unqualified support for the Republican Party, its platform du jour and its politicians, many of whom, I've observed, have by any standard a profound lack of charity. And human nature being what it is, when you all you see of Catholic libertarians or Catholic Republicans are the kind of people who surmise that not voting for the Republican candidate or not being a libertarian is the moral equivalent of, say, abortion, then it's not conducive to forming a charitable portrait of them, no?

That said, two wrongs do not make a right. I think Shea's problem is that he spends too much time in the combox, even for someone who runs a blog. And in his further defense, I've seen his non-blog writing, and it's actually pretty good, and charitable. But then again, his chief problem is he's too sensitive about what people say in the combox, and it shows in his blog writing.

Foxfier said...

The "he doesn't like them because their representatives were mean to him" theory has a problem-- Shea started to be rather nasty to those who disagree with him on prudential matters well before 2012.

For example, from 2010:

At that point, he'd already been doing the "if you don't agree with me you're not really Catholic" thing for long enough that even I noticed it was off, and stopped reading... at least a year prior, I think.

Part of the problem of the "Seem to show unqualified support" thing is that if anybody disagrees with a criticism Shea pushes, they're accused of it.

Baron Korf said...

I stopped reading him after the Macondo Event. It became clear to me then that he had no problem acting like an expert in fields he had no knowledge of and felt he full license to pass judgement on any and all who annoyed him. I still contemplate greeting him with a pipe wrench to the face if I ever meet him.

Foxfier said...

If you're willing to tell me what that is, my email is my handle @