Taylor Dinerman is a professional journalist and one of our long time readers. He has an ability to spur a lively dinner time discussion amongst visitors to North by Northwest in the upper west of Manhattan where he is often to be found. As you read on you will soon discover why!
For many years now I have subscribed to First Things, a monthly magazine put out by Institute for religion and Public Life whose purpose is to ‘advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society’. Obviously not a very libertarian endeavour, but the magazine does, on occasion support limited or small government ideas and stands firmly against the totalitarian monsters of our age. The editor Father John Neuhaus is a Catholic, but a very American one and the magazine is full of great stuff that for a non Catholic and Non Christian like myself (I am a not very pious Reform Jew.) is a window into a culture that is an important part of the world around me.
For readers of Samizdata the December 2006 issue has an article on ‘The Witness of Dietrich von Hildebrand’ by John Crosby, that they may find interesting. Hildebrand, a philosopher and theologian, was an early and unyielding opponent of Hitler’s who did ‘battle with the Nazi ideology at the level of philosophical and theological first principals.’
He said ‘the signature of the age’ was a certain anti-personalism. One expression of this anti-personalism was collectivism, the philosophy that takes human beings as mere parts in some collectivity. Hildebrand held that each human being as a person called by God and answerable to God is always more than a part in a social whole; as a person each exists before God as his own whole and thus refuses to be completely contained in any social whole. Each is a person at a far deeper level of himself than he is a member of the German State or of the English people, to say nothing of some political party.
There is a lot more like this and despite it being densely argued it tends to enlighten some of our current dilemmas. With a German theologian and philosopher as Pope these kinds of arguments and ideas may get more and more circulation. The Regensburg speech which pissed off the Muslims so much is another example of these kinds of ideas.
Libertarians and small government conservatives may find that on some issues they have a fellow traveler in the Vatican. Of course, the Pope is always going to be Pope first , any comfort he may give to us free market types will always be secondary to that role, but if he moves the Church away from the statist and collectivist doctrines that have occasionally been promoted by the Church over the last couple of centuries or more it will be a monumental change.
If it is done it will be done in language that will be difficult for laymen or non theologians to follow. The good effects (if any) may take years or decades to trickle down, but we all should be aware of the possibilities. This may be overly optimistic, but who knows ‘God’?
There is a link if anyone is interested.