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The Neo-Conservative Imagination: An Interview with Patrick Deneen

Patrick Deneen holds a Ph.D from from Rutgers University. He is professor of political science at Notre Dame University. His published writings include The Odyssey of Political Theory and Democratic Faith. He has also previously published in Ethika Politika, and is a member of the editorial board. (See: “Contemplative Fatherhood” and “Loss of Vocation and the Demise of the University”).

This interview grows out questions I developed after reading his much circulated piece “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching” where he linked my notorious piece “Contra Zmirak: In Praise of the Inquisition.

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Rosman: What in your estimates drives the Neo-Conservative reading of Catholic Social Teaching? Why do they cling so fast to capitalism as the great white hope?

Deneen: Many of the estimable figures whom we might identify as Catholic neo-conservatives, who tend to stress morality in the realm of sexual ethics while taking a more laissez-faire view of economics, came of age intellectually and otherwise during the Cold War, and much of their worldview, in my view, is shaped by that great contest.  Catholics rightly and necessarily opposed the basic premises of Communism, but as a resultforged in that particular historical cauldronmany came to conclude that the only economic alternative was more or less laissez-faire capitalism.  They have tended, then, to read the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics to be inviolable, but Catholic social teachings regarding economics to be a set of broad and even vague guidelineseven, in one instance, warning that one must read only some sentences of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, not others.

Beyond the discrete historical situation that contributes to the biographies of some individuals, something else should be noted.  I don’t doubt at all the genuineness, seriousness, and in many cases persuasiveness of some of the views of Catholic neo-conservatives.  But we should not discount that part of the reason for their prominence in contemporary conservative circles is that they fill a very important political niche in the American political marketplace, and in particular, a niche within American conservatism.  Since the effort to forge a conservative “fusion” going back to the 1950sone that sought to combine anti-communists, social conservatives and libertarians, and saw dawning political promise with Barry Goldwater and fruition with the election of Ronald Reaganthere needed to be a way to bring various social conservatives into a “political bedfellowship” with libertarians, especially economic libertarians.  One needed a marriage of Russell Kirk and Friedrich Hayek.  What was needed were spokesmen among various social conservative constituencies who could represent and galvanize the socially conservative part of the electorate without frightening economic libertarians.  While this niche was relatively easy to fill when it came to Protestant social conservatives, it was always going to be tougher with Catholics.  The “niche” that beckoned was for a Catholic social conservatism that would stress especially sexual morality and would be willing to de-link those concerns from economic considerations.  One could be conservative on sexual morality until one was blue in the face without ever threatening the libertine claims of market capitalism.  This “niche” was going to exist regardless of anyone in particular who filled it, and for those who did end up filling it, there was funding, positions in prominent think-tanks, influence and prominence as an incentive and reward.  These voices play an important role in modern American conservatism, and we need to consider the particular set of political imperatives and networks that ensured that this form of Catholic neo-conservatism would become the dominant political voice among more traditional Catholic voices.

One last point: I think we might reasonably conclude that advancing Catholic teachings about sexual ethics, divorced of the broader teaching that addresses (for instance) economics, proves to be a weak reed.  If we think about the last thirty years, during which there has been some amount of Republican electoral success and even at times ascendancy, we might ask what has been more successfully advanceda society governed by sexual ethics or free-market economics?  We can point to some successes of the former, particularly the growing disapproval of abortion among young people (though coupled with their overwhelming approval of same-sex marriage, we might wonder whether the uptick in disapproval of abortion is actually a kind of logical Lockeanismdon’t deprive people of rights, if you’re crazy enough to get pregnant).  But, I think it’s obvious that it’s an economy that runs on short-term profits, assisted by deregulation of Wall Street, and the process of economic globalization and deracination that has clearly been the “winner” (and, arguably, has been the environment that has been so supportive of a more broadly libertine culture).  So, I would say that this “niche” has been highly useful for economic libertarians, while actually fostering the conditions that have contributed to the ineffectualness of the sexual arguments of the Catholic neo-conservatives.

Rosman: Would it be fair to say that the post-communist narrative you’ve outlined has something in common with much older altar and throne arrangements that proved so disastrous for the Church? What I mean is: It seems, for the most part, that capitalism is triumphant (puts food on tables, brings medical advances, and so on), so there’s a hurry to throw some holy water on it in order to bask in its success. What are the live-options (if any) available to the Church besides grabbing the hems (and power) of a triumphant capitalism?

Deneen: That’s an interesting formulation, but in fact I think the sprinkling of holy water on The Market, as you put it, is in fact born of opposite tendencies to some of the motivations that informed “Altar and Throne” arrangements, whichfor all their pathologieswere informed by the Augustinian recognition that the Cities of Man and God, while distinct, were “mixed” in complicated ways in the Saeculum.

What is more striking to me is the way that many Catholics of the stripe we are discussing are strenuous in their insistence that, on the one hand, the public square should not be stripped of religion and morality, but that the Market should have a wardrobe like that of Lady Godiva.  This view lies behind the crude but revealing criticisms on the Right of Pope Francis’s occasional but pointed criticisms of an amoral Market, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Larry Kudlow and Judge Andrew Napolitano insisting that the Pontiff stick to doctrine and cease discussing economicsas if the Catholic Church has had nothing to say about economics for, say, the last century if not longer.

I’m not an economist, so I don’t have an extensive list of recommendations for “live-option” alternatives, but a good place to start is for Catholics to re-engage with the economic tradition known as “Distributism” that was developed in the earlier part of the 20th-century by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. This approach insists that an economy must be understood to be subordinate to the human telos, and so ought to be organized with a view of supporting ends the family, stability of communities, self-direction and widespread ownership, subsidiarity and solidarity.  In all these areas, our economy today ends up fostering their opposite. Our economy supports and encourages an increasingly childless workforce and fungible bonds, tenuous relationships to place and community, a dessicated “culture,” centralization and monopoly and crony capitalism, and a debased utilitarian calculation of value and success.

For starters, then, it would be refreshing to see the same energy and devotion exhibited by so many conservative Catholics on issues related to life, religious liberty and gay marriage, to issues related to a proper ordering of the economy.  The first thing that one will be told in response is that these latter issues involve a great deal of prudence, and so don’t demand the same kind of energy and exertions as the former, which (in the case of abortion) is intrinsically evil.  But I would rejoin that Catholics don’t properly think and act as Catholics if we treat these spheres as if they were autonomous and unrelated; indeed, it seems to me that basic economic arrangements that privilege individual autonomy, materialism, mobility at the expense of community, and an “amoral” market significantly and inescapably contribute to our comprehensively “disposable society” (using Pope Francis’s description of, among other things, our abortion regime).  Only when we see similar energy demanding reforms of our economic system in the name not of equalization of outcome, but the telos of human flourishing, will we likely see lots of different and interesting policy ideas of how to foster a more humane economy.  But at the moment we are told that the only two options that exist are largely unregulated markets and Statism, both of which Pope Leo XIII denounced in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum and which have been rejected as false alternatives by every subsequent Pope, including Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

We live in a curious time in which most people on the Leftliberal Catholics included (starting with Mario Cuomo) – argue that politics should not be in the business of “legislating morality”; while those on the Rightmany conservative Catholics includedargue that markets run best purely on motivation of individual self-interest. That is, Catholics follow the American political division that treat one sphere as morally autonomous.  Both of these positions are rightly rejected by the comprehensive Catholic understanding that all dimensions and spheres of life ought rightly to be governed by an Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of the Good.


Readers are invited to discuss essays in argumentative and fraternal charity, and are asked to help build up the community of thought and pursuit of truth that Ethika Politika strives to accomplish, which includes correction when necessary. The editors reserve the right to remove comments that do not meet these criteria and/or do not pertain to the subject of the essay.

  • SamRocha

    I wrote a post about this already at my blog, so I don’t have anything to add here, except to note how deafening the silence is here in the com box.

  • Thaddeus J. Kozinski

    Great article. I would have liked to see some mention of Catholic Zionism, which underlies or, at least, is concomitant with Catholic neoconservatism. American exceptionalism is like Zionism, as it is a form of racial/national superiority, which trumps the true exceptionalism and superiority, because non-violent and non-scapegoating, of the Catholic Church, of which the American/Israeli/Anglo/NATO empire of false flag terrorism is a counterfeit.

  • Bryan T. Mathew

    Not a Catholic, but this is fascinating, so…

    Following other work by Deneen, it seems like there’s going to be a robust intra-Catholic debate in years to come as to how Catholics should relate to the polity, with the poles not represented by “liberal” Catholics and “conservative” Catholics in a way that maps on to the American political debate, but between neo-conservative Catholics in the tradition of Neuhaus, who integrate Catholic social conservatism with Republican coalition politics and the larger American liberal project, and radical Catholics who are either very suspicious of or altogether dismissive of the American liberal project.

    That’s swell so far as it goes, and count me as someone very sympathetic to the radicals. However, the closing line of this interview strikes me as both right and worrisome-

    “Both of these positions are rightly rejected by the comprehensive Catholic understanding that all dimensions and spheres of life ought rightly to be governed by an Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of the Good.”

    I agree with the sentiment, but I wonder how we are to pursue its actualization. There’s a reason, after all, that the liberal project came to be in the first place.

  • Paul

    I feel we have highly regulated markets that prevent small business from being able to compete because of the crony capitalism that exists in bot political parties. These regulations drive up the cost to where you need to be big enough to have lawyers on staff. St. Thomas Aquinas has excellent comments on how capitalism should be done.

    • Dan C

      We have highly regulated markets on environmental and emoyment grounds, because employers, and small business employers, are frequent bad actors in these fields. They pollute, dump, and have an employee track record that is poor.

  • Tim

    Great article, I hope other Catholics take the conservative blinders off. -Tim

  • RS

    This article raises the “big question” as to how catholic social teaching should inform civil politics in the US in regard to the state’s regulation of the economy and business enterprise. The state’s action here clearly impacts human thriving which is impossible for the church to ignore because, as pointed out here, economic issues are not orthogonal to social issues like abortion, marriage or stable family life. This merits far more serious discussion than it has received & EP has done a service by keeping it in play.

    In the brave new post cold war world of global capitalism & shifting ideological currents, does Rerum Novarum need an update? I think so and maybPope Francis will do it. I would also suggest that the “Distributism” of Belloc, Chesterton, plus Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin needs a serious refresh as well. We will not be retreating, from this point in history, to a rural agrarian utopia of the 19th century. They set forth useful concepts but economic reality requires a model applicable to the business enterprises of our current economy. What would that model look like? If Rerum Novarum were updated, what would it say? This is the project forums like this could begin to address serioumaybPopesly.

    • Art

      I agree with the first paragraph, but think we need to seriously reappraise modernity as a whole, which means that we should not shy away from hard truths about the limitations of the current economy to support virtue.

  • Margaret Kelly

    This is so great.

  • Kevin Davern

    I was referred to this piece, but am disappointed. Remarks like this are not helpful in furthering a formative dialogue for Christians to clarify how to work in today’s world.

    I think Mr. Deneen is very mistaken if he thinks that the US has had “free-market capitalism”. This lack of knowledge is more evident as he talks about a general trend of deregulation. Regulations–with some exceptions–are and have been on the increase constantly. Try to start a taxi cab in NYC; try to braid hair in Louisiana. Remember the trouble that monastery got into in the deep South by making caskets without the permitted licence? I find it hard to think that anyone feels more free in the US today than they would have in the past.

    There are several straw man parts to his remarks: Most Catholics who argue for lassez-faire are NOT in favor of an amoral marketplace; we simply understand that the regulations tend to end up favoring the well-connected, already established, cronies of those in power. Judge Andrew Napolitano does not say that the Pope ought to stick to doctrine, either. Deneen’s twists his point. Napolitano says that the hierarchy should inform the laity but ought not make specific prescriptions. (Sound…because they are not in position to know the specifics of a country’s economic terrain; these things are for the laity to wrestle with–in light of Catholic social teaching.)

    Lastly, I am a devotee of Chesterton and Belloc, and so have read some on Distributism. Its fundamental premise–spreading the means of production out as much as possible is the right goal I think, and I think that a truly free market is the best means to achieve this goal. The Progressive Movement was championed by established companies to keep out new competition. Tim Carney’s The Big Rip-off and Obamanomics are good, accessible introductions to this phenomenon. There are many others.

    Also, I have a fundamental practical objection to what I’ve read in Belloc’s Distributism, though. Belloc advocates the state capping one’s earnings at a certain point, so that one cannot over-accumulate. My objection centers on the amount of power this gives the state–and we’ve seen how responsible the state has been. The more history I read, the more I see it is that the state allows established companies–through regulations–to maintain their position longer than they would otherwise. In a more free economy, I think companies would not be as dominant as long. New companies would dethrone them or at least limit market share–thus distributing means of production.

    I think a free market is more aligned with the dignity of man than a regulated one, as regulations ultimately rely on coercion. Freedom is always a risky thing, but God gives us freedom.

    Lastly, as a Catholic, I am SO TIRED of libertarians being equated with libertines. Many of my friends, Catholics who work in academe–who ought to know how to discuss things–continually accuse libertarians of favoring an atomistic, amoral society. This is not the case, we object to state coercion, state omnipresence in all walks of like. We support works of charity and mercy, through free association.

    • Michael Sullivan

      Well said!

    • Art

      I have strong questions on the capacity of all human affairs to be supported without coercion. Yes, one can object to State power, but I think some form of power is necessary if it is not that of the State.

      • Vigilant2

        Yes, that is the power of individual liberty, the suasion of the free market, and an environment that nurtures it. That is a long way from so-called social justice, that knows no bounds on control, aka Marxism, and will gladly see these credentialed useful idiots stood against a wall, when they are no longer useful.

        • Art

          What about the power of the family, the village, the Church, and other such institutions? I feel we are basically in agreement, but I place individualism as being less useful than more traditional sources of authority.

          • Vigilant2

            All have their legitimate roles. But only the individual can make decisions for himself. That is what Christianity is about. Otherwise, all we have left is the likes of Islam. Letist leaders like Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Kim demonstrate a consistent pattern of mass murder to underwrite their grasp on power. Social justice advocates find themselves in common company.

          • Art

            “But only the individual can make decisions for himself.”
            That is certainly compatible with Christianity as long as we understand there must be limitations on the individuals choices. A girl should not be able to simply decide she wants contraception and autonomously decide she can consume it, and a couple should not be able to decide they can freely have sex without legitimating that decision in the eyes of the community.

          • Vigilant2

            YES! The eternal conundrum … could vs. should. Eliminating the ‘could’, the option, is where everything falls apart. Enlightened self-interest, a product of the free market, TENDS to do good for the largest numbers, floating all boats. We see what happens to the boats of the market when the Barack Obamas are in charge. My good Catholic catechism classes, and the example of good men and women have held me in greater stead, than the threats of coercive force that is the hallmark of all things socialist.

          • Egyptsteve

            Yes, we see what happens to the “boats of the market” when Barak Obama is in charge: corporate profits up astronomically, as demonstrated by a doubled stock market. You’re welcome.

          • Vigilant2

            More commonly referred to as fascism. We no longer have a free market, and our clerics have applauded the replacement of charity with enforced redistribution to favored groups. The options (liberty) have gone way now that social justice, aka fascism is in vogue among the catholic hierarchy, and their camp followers.

        • lol

          what are you talking about. That isn’t marxism lmao. Read up.

  • Michael Sullivan

    These debates are endlessly frustrating because they always fall into the same pit holes. For one, capitalism is left undefined, or it is broadly defined with out making key distinctions. The talk about laissez faire capitalism is a straw man because we don’t have this kind of economy, yet when it is invoked it is to blame all the problems in the economy on it as if it is to blame (when it isn’t). Then Distributism is invoked as the great salvation without really digging into it as an economic system in contra to the straw man already propped up.

    As someone who has been studying and debating these issues for years, this is my suggestions for fruitful dialogue:

    1. Come to a united understanding that the root of the problems we see in the economy (global and local) are a result of the structural injustice of our monetary system. Fiat money is evil. It is a moral evil, a social injustice and it produces a tyrannical giant state that has endless wars and endless enslaving social assistance. It also is a contributing factor to corporate giantism. Note that fiat money has nothing to do with a “free economy,” It is Keynesian, which is all about the power of the State, not about freedom of citizens in the market place. We need to unite in our understanding of this issue and recognize that it is directly related to questions of Christian anthropology. Far too often in our Catholic debates on the economy we have one side blaming a free economy for the evil fruit of fiat monetary policy, and so we go round and round debating economic systems, when at root it is this policy that we need to examine. This is simply a category mistake.

    2. Avoid using the term “capitalism” because it is too vague and too charged. John Paul II in CA advocated using different terms, like the “free economy.” We should follow suit to make some key distinctions about what we mean when discussing these issues, e.g. what is the content of a “free economy” and how is that different from what we have today. Far too often in these debates, the term “capitalism” is used when “crony or state capitalism” is what is meant and the debate goes no where. This is just sloppy.

    3. Recognize that we all seek human flourishing and focus the discussion on what brings that about. There is a wealth of research and understanding on this. This is the end that we seek more so than the overthrow of an economic system. Our debates should begin here because this is where we will find fruitful agreement.

    4. There is another category mistake between seeking to change the economic system vs. seeking to call Catholics to transform the culture of operating in the economy. For example, the article criticizes the practice of seeking short term profits as a result of “capitalism” and the purported problems that it creates. If indeed seeking a short term return is a problem, there is a difference between arguing for the State to make a structural change to the economy by force, vs. calling Catholics to be salt and light by creating investment opportunities that are longer term and making the moral cultural transformation case to appeal to the free investment choices of bearers of Christ in the market place. We need to distinguish between structure and culture.

    5. Finally, we need to reclaim a biblical theology of the free economy, because ultimately the solution we all seek is not in a utopian economic system, it is in the cultural transformation that an awakened Catholic community brings by creatively redeeming the area of work, property, transaction, investment and wealth creation. Towards that end, the social doctrine is helpful, but really we need to return to sources and understand the role of covenant, blessing, inhabiting the land, etc. from biblical theology. Dr. John Bergsma (Fransciscan U) gave an excellent talk on the OT view of private property at Acton U. this year which is a great place to start. We have a richer understanding of these issues than the world would has. We need to reclaim these foundations and allow them to seep into our thinking about these issues so that we don’t fall into a left/right paradigm of debate – another dead end.

  • A.R. James

    Capitalism is a system of voluntary cooperation and exchange, under the rule of law, with a system of property rights. Unfortunately, under such a system, people may choose to voluntarily cooperate to do immoral or unvirtuous things. However, this is a fault of the people who live under capitalism, not of capitalism itself. If Deneen wishes to directly criticize capitalism, he must direct his criticisms at voluntarism, property, law, or some combination of the previous elements.

    • Art

      I would agree, but also think we can point criticism at industrialization and mechanization for their tendency to enable unvirtuous things.

      • Jude

        You mean the same industrialization and mechanization that makes possible things like the computer you are using? It doesn’t take much to enable “unvirtuous things,” as men are fallen, and therefore all man-made systems will be subject to abuse by individuals.

        • Art

          Yes, I do mean that very same industrialization. There has been more than a century of work discussing the differences between men who are influenced by modern and urban systems and men who live more pre-modern lives, and there are real and measurable differences. Look at the TFR of people who are urban and industrialized vs the TFR of the same society with more rural or non-industrial areas. There are real and measurable effects of modern systems that operate separate from culture and individual will.

          Just because I use something does not mean one has to endorse it’s use, or that one cannot accept that using it might be inimical to virtue. I would accept a society where I do not have access to a computer or a low-labor job if it allowed for more births and less abortions and divorces.

  • lee faber

    Since when is “comprehensive Catholic understanding” identical to the “Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of the good”? So Thomism = Catholicism?

  • Dagnabbit_42

    Mr. Deneen hasn’t actually addressed anything here. He is long on straw man arguments and that sort of armchair primatology in which a man views persons with whom he disagrees as interesting beasts whose behavior he documents and about whose motives he makes unflattering guesses. (All that gas about Reagan and the Cold War.)

    If anyone cares, the following is a far more accurate comparison between the Church’s teachings on Chastity and on Economic Justice:


    When describing sexual morality, the Church details for us a goal, and gives us a policies to implement both at the individual and social levels:

    1. GOAL OF CHASTITY AND SANCTITY: Chastity specifically, and personal holiness generally, leading ultimately to the mystical union with Christ;

    2. POLICY FOR THE INDIVIDUAL: Don’t commit sexual sin; Do nourish your faith through fasting, almsgiving, prayer, et cetera and love God more than created things, including carnal pleasures.

    3. POLICY FOR THE SOCIETY: All the individuals in society ought to voluntarily and individually implement the Policy For The Individual given above. Where helpful, individuals should express Solidarity by forming and joining voluntary-membership organizations oriented towards teaching chastity and living chastely. Moreover, individuals should vote for the politicians whose ideas will best advance the Church’s teaching about Policy For The State, given below:

    4. POLICY FOR THE STATE: Do not, through laws and regulations and other kinds of policy, accidentally or intentionally encourage fornication, homosexual acts, contraception, adultery, prostitution or pornography. Instead, take care that the social consequences of laws and regulations make chaste living easier, rather than more difficult.


    Likewise, when describing economic morality, the Church details for us a goal, and gives us policies to implement, both at the individual and social levels:

    1. GOAL OF ECONOMIC JUSTICE: Persons should not be impoverished either financially or educationally, nor should they lack for medical care or leisure time.

    2. POLICY FOR THE INDIVIDUAL: Give of your time, talent, and treasure for the needy. If you are an employer, pay your employees fairly and allow them time for leisure.

    3. POLICY FOR THE SOCIETY: All the individuals in society ought to voluntarily and individually implement the Policy For The Individual given above. Where helpful, they should express Solidarity by joining together in voluntary-membership organizations to better advance society towards the Goal Of Economic Justice. Also, all the individuals should vote for the politicians whose ideas will best advance the Church’s teaching about Policy For The State, given below:

    4. POLICY FOR THE STATE: Do not, through laws and regulations and other kinds of public policy, accidentally or intentionally encourage wage slavery, economic exploitation, or poverty. Instead, take care that the social consequences of laws and regulations make it easier for persons in poverty to escape it and for all persons to live a life where labor and leisure are properly balanced and basic human needs may be easily met.

    That’s pretty much it.

    Folks, in a nutshell, that’s pretty much what the Church teaches.

    You’ll notice that the “Policy For The State” bit is pretty thin on actually outlawing things or what the fines ought to be, in both cases.

    A lot of people think that the Church teaches prostitution, sale of contraceptives, use of contraceptives, fornication, adultery, homosexual acts, and so forth must be outlawed.

    She does not. She says they’re great moral evils. She leaves it up to a society to figure out how best to use armed force to oppose great moral evils…and cautions us that the use of armed force is not always morally licit, nor is it always effective even when licit.

    So, it may be permissible to forcibly lock up prostitutes and johns. Or, it may not be. But whether it is or isn’t morally permissible to use force in this fashion, it may not actually be wise: The use of force in this fashion might in fact lead to worse evils. (Check out Aquinas on this issue.)

    Likewise, it is probably NOT morally permissible to jail a married couple for using condoms to space out births of children. But whether it’s morally permissible or not, it probably isn’t even wise or helpful: The use of force in this fashion might in fact lead to worse evils. (!)

    Such is the attitude regarding chastity…what about economics?

    The persons whom Mr. Deneen calls “neo-conservatives” about Economics — I don’t think any of them call themselves that, nor do all of them support the nation-building agenda of G.W.Bush which characterizes the most common use of “neo-conservatism” as a label — hold the following:

    1. It may not actually be morally permissible to use force to alleviate certain kinds of economic moral evils through the leftist-economic methods usually being recommended;

    2. If it is morally permissible, it still may not be wise inasmuch as it seems to lead to a cavalcade of predictable if unintended harms.

    How is this inconsistent with the way the same thinkers approach matters of chastity? (It isn’t.)

    Let us say two men want to engage in an act of sodomy. This is a moral evil. Okay. But is it morally licit to point guns at them and lock them up for doing it, or is that ALSO a moral evil? And even if it’s not a moral evil, is it wise?


    Let us say that an employer is willing to hire a person who has minimal or no experience in a low-level position paying $4 per hour, and the person (for lack of experience and other opportunities, and needing the money) is willing to take it. And let us suppose that the employer is independently wealthy and does not intend, in addition to giving the person a job, to also anonymously slip them some alms.

    In that case, there’s probably a moral evil in there somewhere. Perhaps more than one. Okay. But is it morally licit to point guns at them and lock them up…well, although was a voluntary exchange, but let’s presume we’d actually only lock up the employer. Is that use of force morally licit? And even if it is, is it wise? Or is it just going to make it impossible for persons with no job experience and (no family connections) to get entry-level jobs in order to obtain experience?

    These are the kinds of questions asked by the persons whom Mr. Deneen impugns.

  • W Meyer

    One would have to be stunningly ignorant of economics to view the current mess of government controlled market areas as “free market capitalism.” The last vestiges of a free market were all but destroyed before the beginning of the 20th century.

    As to the subject of Catholic teaching on “social justice”, I would point out that numerous bishops in their preaching for “social justice” are cozied up to socialist politicians, and the Church has very plainly condemned socialism. What of the problem with bishops whose pet beliefs are in opposition to Church doctrine?

    Bishops are not infallible, and as Catholics, we have no mandate to follow false teachings, no matter their source.

  • Oliver

    I agree with Prof. Deneen’s remarks as to what should be the Catholic approach to economic dysfunction. Unfortunately, very few Catholics seem to know anything about the Social Credit ideas of Major C.H. Douglas. These ideas are key to establishing a pro-family and pro-life economic milieu that is, as Deneen puts it, ordered to the telos of human flourishing and through it to the supernatural end of man. I have recently published two books on the subject: “Social Credit Economics” and “The Economics of Social Credit and Catholic Social Teaching”, both of which are available on Further info may be obtained by consulting

  • Christopher Wolfe

    “They have tended, then to read the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics to be inviolable, but Catholic social teachings regarding economics to be a set of broad and even vague guidelines”
    That’s because that’s exactly what the great moral theologians of the church DID teach. It’s the difference between something being a “malum in se” and a “malum prohibitum” as Aquinas put it. Murder (including abortion) and adultery (including other sexual sins) are evils in themselves, while other things such as economic wrongs are evil because the law prohibits it, based on justice.