Libertarianism and Religion

A new Pope was recently elected.  Pope Francis is from Argentina and is said to be a strong advocate for the poor.  I'm guessing this doesn't necessarily mean that he is a radical libertarian who understands that free market capitalism is the best solution to eradicating poverty.  But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and I have no reason at all to doubt his intentions (unlike most politicians).

Pope John Paul II is considered one of the most significant figures of the 20th century.  He is credited for helping to bring down communism.  I guess it is a competition between him and Reagan on who gets the most credit.  I think communism was destined to fail anyway (as Ludwig von Mises predicted), but it is always good to have people who help speed it along.

I have always wondered what would happen if the Pope were to take on a libertarian message in economics.  Imagine if the Pope were to go to a country like the Philippines, which has a population of over 90 million people, about 80% of whom are Catholic.  Now imagine that the Pope tells millions of people that the state is an immoral institution and that they must have a society of voluntary trade and strong property rights in order to prosper.  Would they get mad at the Pope or would they listen to him?  I really have no idea.

For some reason, politics and religion often clash.  This goes back thousands of years.  But libertarianism in particular seems to get caught up with religion.  Just like so many other issues, there are a lot of misconceptions by those who don't have a good grasp of what it means to be a libertarian.

It is possible to be religious and not be a libertarian.  It is possible to not be religious and not be a libertarian.  It is possible to be religious and be a libertarian.  It is possible to not be religious and be a libertarian.  And you can really be any religion and be a libertarian, assuming that your religion does not advocate the initiation of force.

Now, it is certainly possible, and even likely, that someone's religion could influence their political beliefs.  We certainly see that with abortion.  But even with an overall world view, not just on one issue, it can play in heavily.

There are many socialists who think they are being good Christians because Jesus would have advocated giving to the poor.  The problem here is that socialists are not advocating "giving".  If they simply held the belief that everyone should give to the poor, but do so voluntarily, then there probably would not be a contradiction.  The problem is that socialists must use the force of government to extract money from people in order to "give" it.  They are not giving their own money.

There are certainly Christian libertarians too (along with other religions), many of whom I'm sure have their political beliefs influenced by their religious beliefs.  If your religion teaches against the initiation of force, then if you actually apply it logically and consistently, you will actually find libertarianism, even if you don't immediately understand the economics of it.

To be clear, you can be a libertarian and advocate that everyone give a portion of their money to the poor (except the poor probably wouldn't give their money to the poor).  It is consistent with libertarianism as long as you don't suggest that the government or any means of force be used in carrying out your goals.  You must believe in persuasion and not in coercion.

In conclusion, libertarianism is a philosophy on what you think the law should be.  It is a philosophy that believes there should be no initiation of force, or the threat of force, for political or social change.  You can have any religious beliefs you want and be a libertarian, as long as your beliefs do not conflict with the non-aggression principle.