An argument for the compatibility of Catholicism and anarchism

Catholic thought has recognized for centuries that the legitimacy of government, while ordained by God, is derived from the consent of the governed. The modern state, a territory monopoly of violence, derives “legitimacy” not through consent but through force. Taxes are imposed on populations of millions of people without any consent, and spent without any choice. If it is immoral for a private individual to commit a sin, it is immoral for an institution that calls itself government to impose taxes without consent. This idea is present in historical Catholic thought, such as that of Suarez.

It would seem that anarchism or voluntarism would be the only morally acceptable political philosophy. In the absence of a central state, free, voluntary, and polycentric governments would spring up in their places, promoting the common good and never imposing upon individuals. Property rights, the most sacred right other than the right to life, would no longer be systematically violated by the states.

God does not impose His will upon us nor force us to love Him. What gives men the right band together to subjugate lower classes through the state? Nor is it the duty of the Christian to force and control.

The state is not the same thing as government. Read “Our Enemy The State” by Albert Jay Nock.

Anarchism is not the absence of government or order, anarchism is voluntarism. It is the notions of subsidiarity and solidarity taken to their most radical extremes. The modern state is a moral abomination that no Catholic should support. True, the Church gives directives on what states should do, and insofar as they exist their actions should be directed towards promoting the common good (which usually means leaving things alone or returning stolen money) and no interference otherwise.

Every function we consider a state function can be reproduced in a free market setting, read Murray Rothbard and David Friedman. These things do not even have to have a “capitalistic” character to them, many things can be done in a “socialistic” way if people want to, indeed, most anarchists are socialists and communists but I prefer a market based approach given the scarcity of resources and the natural right to property.

The crux of the argument is recognizing the dignity of every human person and the fact that no other person has the right to subjugate persons as means to ends, which is what states do.

To make my point clear, again: Government, social institutions that promote the common good, must exist in some way because of human nature. All the necessary tasks of government can be performed without coercion or compulsion, except of course, for purposes such as defense of people and property, and imprisonment. States, anti-social institutions that absorb and warp government into a coercive, monopolistic creature, cannot be supported by anyone with a conscience.

Citation please? I don’t believe it.

The modern state, a territory monopoly of violence, derives “legitimacy” not through consent but through force.

All states, or just the US, or what? The Catholic criterion for when a government is not legitimate has nothing to do with the consent of the governed. It has only to do with whether or not that government is promoting the common good.

Taxes are imposed on populations of millions of people without any consent, and spent without any choice.

There are plenty of states for which this is not true. There are varying degrees of consent, especially in functioning democracies. What are you talking about?

If it is immoral for a private individual to commit a sin, it is immoral for an institution that calls itself government to impose taxes without consent.

Repeating your assertion with no more proof does not make it any more true.

This idea is present in historical Catholic thought, such as that of Suarez.

Go read Suarez more carefully. You will see that he advocates that the people have the right to revolt and take back the power from the rulers, but only if those rulers were acting contrary to the common good. This is essentially what the Catechism says too. The determination of “acting against the common good” is a high bar to prove. You can’t just proclaim a revolution just because you disagree with how the government is spending your money.

It would seem that anarchism or voluntarism would be the only morally acceptable political philosophy. In the absence of a central state, free, voluntary, and polycentric governments would spring up in their places, promoting the common good and never imposing upon individuals.

The Catholic Church has never condoned anarchism. What definition of “morally acceptable” are you using?

Anarchism is not the absence of government or order, anarchism is voluntarism.

You don’t get to redefine words just to make your argument appear more palatable.

The modern state is a moral abomination that no Catholic should support.

Unless, maybe, that Catholic prefers to follow the Catechism.

The crux of the argument is recognizing the dignity of every human person and the fact that no other person has the right to subjugate persons as means to ends, which is what states do.

What “subjugation” do you mean? So far the only example you have given is taxes.

To make my point clear, again: Government, social institutions that promote the common good, must exist in some way because of human nature. All the necessary tasks of government can be performed without coercion or compulsion, except of course, for purposes such as defense of people and property, and imprisonment. States, anti-social institutions that absorb and warp government into a coercive, monopolistic creature, cannot be supported by anyone with a conscience.

It sounds like you want to draw a profound distinction between government and states, so that government=good and states=bad. But other than using different words, which most people take as synonyms, what distinction have you actually made?

Aquinas, Bellarmine, Caroll, Grotius, Suarez…

All states, or just the US, or what? The Catholic criterion for when a government is not legitimate has nothing to do with the consent of the governed. It has only to do with whether or not that government is promoting the common good.

All states. The history of Catholic thought contradicts that idea. If not, explain to me how an imposed coercive monopoly is a legitimate form of government that promotes the common good.

There are plenty of states for which this is not true. There are varying degrees of consent, especially in functioning democracies. What are you talking about?

No, every single modern state functions in exactly this way. Especially democratic states, because democracy is the worst form of government, a perfectly Catholic notion as well.

Go read Suarez more carefully. You will see that he advocates that the people have the right to revolt and take back the power from the rulers, but only if those rulers were acting contrary to the common good…

Of course he’s right about that. But the fact of the matter is Suarez’s entire political theory was based around consent of the governed because it is a human institution, and he was very free and easy with the right of regicide. If the state is stealing my money and spending it on war and abortion, you better believe I’m getting mad.

The Catholic Church has never condoned anarchism. What definition of “morally acceptable” are you using?

Do you even know what anarchism is? The definition of moral acceptability I use is the definition that means the same natural law and Ten Commandments apply to everyone, everywhere, with no exceptions.

You don’t get to redefine words just to make your argument appear more palatable.

You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve probably never even heard of Albert Jay Nock, let alone read him. States and governments are not the same thing. A state is a coercive monopoly of violence, every political thinker in the world acknowledges this.

Unless, maybe, that Catholic prefers to follow the Catechism.

Show me where in the Catechism that government through coercive monopolies of violence are explicitly endorsed and mandated.

What “subjugation” do you mean? So far the only example you have given is taxes.

Taxation, conscription, war, economic exploitation.

It sounds like you want to draw a profound distinction between government and states, so that government=good and states=bad.

Because the words are not synonymous and should not be used as synonyms.

But other than using different words, which most people take as synonyms, what distinction have you actually made?

That governments are institutions that promote social organization and welfare, and states are the perversion of this notion.

How much do you know of anarchism beyond reading the dictionary definition and applying your fundamentalist interpretation of the Catechism to it?

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Sir Winston Churchill

Monarchy is far superior, but that’s beside the point. (I’m not a leftist anarchist, I’m a rightist anarchist, hence my distaste for democracy.)

You raise a lot of good problems and issues…but if you want to see the Church’s actual Magisterial teaching on this…I recommend that you read a great doctrine document…COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH(below)…otherwise you are starting your own “Liberation Theology”…and…“we have been there…and…done that”…and you will wind up just like it did…in the dust bin of 2000+ years of Church history. Ideas have consequences…and bad ideas have bad consequences. The Church has 2000+ years of experience in this arena of Faith and Morals…God, Man and Society…no one knows it better than The Church…or has a better doctrine/plan…that justly satisfies the three critical aspects/requirements of Faith and Morals…for God, Man, and Society. Nothing that The Church teaches supports your thesis or your game-plan.

Pax Christi

PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE

COMPENDIUM
OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE
OF THE CHURCH

TO HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
MASTER OF SOCIAL DOCTRINE AND
EVANGELICAL WITNESS
TO JUSTICE AND PEACE
[INDENT]

[quote]vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

[/quote]

[/INDENT]

Especially…

[INDENT]

CHAPTER EIGHT
THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS
a. God’s dominion
b. Jesus and political authority
c. The early Christian communities

II. FOUNDATION AND PURPOSE OF THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY
a. Political community, the human person and a people
b. Defending and promoting human rights
c. Social life based on civil friendship

III. POLITICAL AUTHORITY
a. The foundation of political authority
b. Authority as moral force
c. The right to conscientious objection
d. The right to resist
e. Inflicting punishment

IV. THE DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM
a. Values and democracy
b. Institutions and democracy
c. Moral components of political representation
d. Instruments for political participation
e. Information and democracy

V. THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY AT THE SERVICE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
a. Value of civil society
b. Priority of civil society
c. Application of the principle of subsidiarity

VI. THE STATE AND RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
A. Religious freedom, a fundamental human right
B. The Catholic Church and the political community

a. Autonomy and independence
b. Cooperation

[/INDENT]

This ideology is one of those that sounds good on paper, but in practice ends up failing. It was practiced in the 1930’s during the Spanish civil war…It didn’t turn out too well for the radicals.

A list of names does not constitute a citation.

All states [are immoral]. The history of Catholic thought contradicts that idea. If not, explain to me how an imposed coercive monopoly is a legitimate form of government that promotes the common good.

…irrelevant for the question at hand.

No, every single modern state functions in exactly this way. Especially democratic states, because democracy is the worst form of government, a perfectly Catholic notion as well.

What are you saying? That a perfectly Catholic notion is in fact the worst form of government?

Of course he’s right about that. But the fact of the matter is Suarez’s entire political theory was based around consent of the governed because it is a human institution, and he was very free and easy with the right of regicide. If the state is stealing my money and spending it on war and abortion, you better believe I’m getting mad.

Getting mad does not entitle you to anything. Your take on Suarez’s political theory sounds like wishful thinking on your part. Are you just fishing for support of your pet idea?

Do you even know what anarchism is?

…enough to know it is not identical with voluntarism, even if they do share some characteristics.

The definition of moral acceptability I use is the definition that means the same natural law and Ten Commandments apply to everyone, everywhere, with no exceptions.

How do you make the leap from that to your assertion that “anarchism or voluntarism would be the only morally acceptable political system”?

You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve probably never even heard of Albert Jay Nock, let alone read him. States and governments are not the same thing. A state is a coercive monopoly of violence, every political thinker in the world acknowledges this.

I don’t need to read your favorite authors to know the definition of words. You are confusing definitions with analyses.

Show me where in the Catechism that government through coercive monopolies of violence are explicitly endorsed and mandated.

…irrelevant question…

Taxation, conscription, war, economic exploitation.

If these are supposed to be examples of forms of government subjugation, you haven’t proven it yet. Sometimes conscription and war are absolutely necessary to protect the entire society. (Although sometimes they are immoral too.) Taxation is neutral, depending on the circumstances. Economic exploitation is a subjective interpretation of government activity. One person’s economic exploitation is another person’s common good.

Radical individualism? Not going to happen.

From the Hippies: “Do your thing. I mean, your thing might not be my thing and my thing might not be your thing but whatever it is, your thing is cool. And if your thing is also my thing then maybe we could get together and do our thing together.”

Just watch an episode of Dexter.

Desperate Housewives: “You’re judging me. You can’t judge me.”

Right? Wrong? Whatever.

Peace,
Ed

This rebuttal is completely devoid of any substance.

I missed that.

5. Indeed, very many men of more recent times, walking in the footsteps of those who in a former age assumed to themselves the name of philosophers,(2) say that all power comes from the people; so that those who exercise it in the State do so not as their own, but as delegated to them by the people, and that, by this rule, it can be revoked by the will of the very people by whom it was delegated. But from these, Catholics dissent, who affirm that the right to rule is from God, as from a natural and necessary principle.

8. But, as regards political power, the Church rightly teaches that it comes from God, for it finds this clearly testified in the sacred Scriptures and in the monuments of antiquity; besides, no other doctrine can be conceived which is more agreeable to reason, or more in accord with the safety of both princes and peoples.

12. Those who believe civil society to have risen from the free consent of men…the pact which they allege… has no authority to confer on political power such great force, dignity, and firmness as the safety of the State and the common good of the citizens require.

vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_29061881_diuturnum_en.html

Pope Leo XII is writing against social contract theorists, who do have a theory of human society incompatible not just with the Church but with basic common sense, and your quotation of paragraph twelve implies you think civil society is a synonym for government.

I have never denied the necessity for moral and civil authority, the line I draw is when these entities grant themselves the right to use violence and slavery to stay in power, which virtually every state in the world uses.

You are interpreting political power like a Protestant. Divine right of kings, political power from God, to the ruler, to the ruled, is a Protestant theory of government that ought to be rejected. Catholic history rejects the divine right of kings (tyrannicide was an idea openly discussed by Scholastics), and teaches a formula of political power from God, to the people, to the governor. This idea, taken to its logical conclusion, means that the only morally consistent position is anarchism/voluntarism/panarchism.

Where in the Catechism is support of government through territorial monopolies of violence mandated? The social doctrine of the Church assumes a just social structure for its precepts to operate, the modern state makes this impossible. Are Peter Maurin and Servant of God Dorothy Day heretics?

Fitting when you consider the thread.

I doubt a man that died 180+ years ago is writing anything right now.

Marcus Andreas,
It looks like you have completely left a few ideas out of your analysis, on of which is *authority. *The government has the authority to do things which individuals do not have, like tax.

Another thing governments have authority to do is to lock people up. Imagine if I captured someone and locked him up in my basement and justified this by explaining that this person had stolen my car–and the imagine if everyone went around willy-nilly locking people up for their crimes.

The authority of the government derives from their responsibilities to us, the people they serve. The government has the authority to lock people up after the proper judicial proceedings have been done. They have that authority because they have a responsibility to maintain order and protect us from criminals.

As a result of the responsibilities the government has, it also has the right to tax the people served: a laboror is worthy of his hire, no? and how much more so if he must spend money to accomplish what we want him to!

You think authority is the same thing as power. It isn’t. Jesus has authority and yet identifies Himself as the powerless. Authority is knowledge and ability to direct, not to force.

You’re using magical thinking, this idea that by arbitrary fiat the state can grant itself rights to do things that would be morally repugnant for individuals to do.

Of course institutions must exist to maintain social order, nobody is denying this. The evil of the state is that it absorbs power and imposes upon all within its reach, completely disregarding the consent or lack thereof of whom it imposes itself upon. Justice can be administered just as well and better even without a state, look at the examples of medieval Iceland, medieval Ireland, and most of our daily lives where we make decisions on disputes without forcing anybody with government violence.

Please provide some documentation that the Catholic Chirch teaches this.

Of course institutions must exist to maintain social order, nobody is denying this. The evil of the state is that it absorbs power and imposes upon all within its reach, completely disregarding the consent or lack thereof of whom it imposes itself upon. Justice can be administered just as well and better even without a state, look at the examples of medieval Iceland, medieval Ireland,

Oh really? And that was just the first link that I found when I ran a search for medieval Ireland taxes. Doesn’t really sound like a lack of money led to a peaceful environment.

and most of our daily lives where we make decisions on disputes without forcing anybody with government violence.

And the reason that works is that most people don’t get involved in feuds is that they know the government is there.

I think the link provided by Lancer will be where a Catholic might want to look for the Catholic Church’s general teachings and position on political theory and democracy specifically.

Otherwise,

:popcorn:

Try reading the Bible. I’d recommend The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Then read Pacem in terris and Mater et magistra. Governments are bound by the same moral law that individuals are. This notion taken to its logical ends means anarchism/voluntarism is the only morally consistent political philosophy.

Oh really? And that was just the first link that I found when I ran a search for medieval Ireland taxes. Doesn’t really sound like a lack of money led to a peaceful environment.

Do research on the tuatha system and you will see how utterly distinct it is from modern notions of government and state.

And the reason that works is that most people don’t get involved in feuds is that they know the government is there.

And what is government? What is state? Where in the Catechism will you find that government through states (territorial monopolies of violence) is mandated?

Deuteronomy 21:18-21: If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” 21 **Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. **

Not to mention the usual stoning for adultery and so on.

However, what we have done is to institute a process whereby we exchange our own right to exact retribution for a system in which we put that “right” into the hands of those who maintain order so that we don’t have blood running in the streets.

Do research on the tuatha system and you will see how utterly distinct it is from modern notions of government and state.

I should do your work for you? You made the assertion, you provide the evidence.

And what is government? What is state? Where in the Catechism will you find that government through states (territorial monopolies of violence) is mandated?

Maybe since that is the general system throughout the world, the Catechism did not see the necessity in going into it.

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