Many involved in Front Porch Republic embrace the idea of a smallholder economy based on family production under conditions of widespread ownership of productive resources. This was the vision of a moral economy held by the more radical republicans among America’s founders and revived in the 1790s by Thomas Jefferson, George Logan, John Taylor and other leaders of what would become the Democratic Party. Even John Adams had thought this way in the revolutionary fervor of 1776. “The only possible Way then of preserving the Ballance of Power on the side of equal Liberty and public Virtue,” he wrote in a letter that year to James Sullivan, “is to make the Acquisition of Land easy to every Member of Society: to make a Division of the Land into Small Quantities, So that the Multitude may be possessed of landed Estates.”

Catholic distributism, also important at FPR (see John Médaille’s several recent posts on the subject), helps us to ground the American smallholder ethic in a Christian anthropology and a natural-law understanding of the common good. As in all Catholic thought, this religious understanding includes a strong presumption of political responsibility for securing a cohesive, stable social order. Thus it is important today both for the political necessity it entails (given the existing pattern of wealth concentration) and for the particular kind of order it envisions. By the end of the Reagan Administration, Glenn Hubbard found, less than 9 percent of households had active business assets worth more than $5,000, but those few that did controlled about 40 percent of total household wealth.  The bottom half of  American households now controls less than 5 percent of our total net worth.  Our republican founders could not have imagined a distribution of wealth so concentrated, nor a democracy so threatened by the rule of property.

James Matthew Wilson recently reflected here on the smallholder vision as embodying “the need for autarchy.” Property right, in this view, is designed to secure a moderate economic competence for one family and the next, but instead, Wilson argues, it has become a tool of unlimited accumulation. Of course we have social laws that restrain even “rightful” accumulation in a few minimal ways. But underlying this, it seems to me that “autarchy,” an essentially Stoical construal of the idea of a household economy—complete self-rule based on ownership of productive resources–cannot be the basis of a stable society or the ideal moral condition of its members. Most obviously, it goes too far (potentially) in opposing the household to the common good. The very architect of the idea of self-rule based on ownership of property, John Locke, already predicted the grim proletarian future of this idea in the famous passage in his Second Treatise describing the “turfs my servant has cut” as part of the landowner’s “labor” entitlement. The fruits of the labor of those without property were instantly assimilated to the justice of proprietary autarchy. Thus modern capitalism was born in contravention of the fundamental laws of God and nature, which provide for a wide distribution of productive resources and political responsibility to secure as much. Locke’s liberal seduction of Christian thought in philosophically sanctifying private property as a necessary and virtually limitless extension of inviolable God-given personhood penetrated to the core of Western culture almost without resistance until the nineteenth century. Standing athwart the anti-human extremes of liberalism and socialism, Catholic social thought, beginning with the Jesuit neo-Thomists who laid the intellectual groundwork for Rerum novarum, devised a theory of individual or household property balanced by public responsibility for securing conditions of widespread ownership or self-sufficiency by other means. Leaving much room for technical debate on the proper means for securing these ends, I ask if we can rebuild a republican-Christian synthesis in American politics today, and if we can, what kind of  common action, duly justified, can dismantle the existing pattern of wealth concentration and restore the sovereignty of families and communities.

As with the New Deal, the intellectual groundwork for a transformation on this scale will take decades to clear and till and sow, but it is essential that we do this work of cultivating another vision of modern life.  This is difficult in the United States because the fabric of American political thought is perhaps unique in being woven through with strong contradictory threads that have never been reconciled—mostly notably, proprietary liberty and communitarian order. An uncomfortable and sometimes combustible co-existence of these ideas has ebbed and flowed, often in regional forms.

Reflecting on this, I am struck by the fact that “liberty” and “freedom,” words we tend to use interchangeably, are really quite distinct in origin and meaning. I examine this briefly—very generally—in my forthcoming book God’s Economy, drawing on David Hackett Fischer’s fascinating discussion in his popular (and marvelous) study Liberty and Freedom. Fischer looks at our political heritage from the vantage point of distinguishing liberty and freedom as almost two different traditions. He starts with etymology and cultural linguistics, and the differences he finds in that regard are rather striking. Our English “liberty” derives from Latin and Greek—from the Latin libertas and the Greek eleutheros. The basic meaning here is “release from restraint,” or more generally, being separate and distinct from others. “Freedom,” on the other hand, is an Anglo-Saxon word that derives from the Indo-European root friya or priya, which, strikingly, means “dear” or “beloved.” The Norse, German, Dutch, Flemish, Celtic, Welsh, and English words for freedom all share this root in the concept of endearment or belovedness. We see this in the English word “friend,” sharing the same root as “free,” as with Freund and frei in German. Notably, the oldest known word associated with the idea of freedom is a Sumerian word, Ama-ar-gi, the root meaning of which is literally “going home to mother.” The word was used to describe the slave’s return to his family, his transformation from a condition of bondage to one of belonging, Fischer stresses.

Freedom was intrinsically a collective idea in the Northern languages. Broadly speaking, it did not refer to individual independence, but signified the condition of being joined to a free people, joined by rights of belonging and by reciprocal duties of membership in that people. It is implicitly a concept attached groups if not groups of families, that is, communities. A belonging that frees the person, as the group is free, must be sustained by an equality of rights and duties within the group, independent of other authorities.

While not devoid of corporate applications in the law, Greco-Roman “liberty,” in contrast, meant emancipation from other people—individual separation and independence from others’ control. It is a concept of status attached to individuals. The medieval libertas ecclesiae is translated “freedom of the church” in English, Latin and English “liberty” being insufficiently corporative to apply to the Church as a body (although Latin does have the physical concept of “corpus” itself, of course). In its common use in the Roman Empire, liberty was the opposite of slavery: the context of its meaning was the imperial state stratified into nobility, commons, freedmen, and slaves. Liberty meant release from slavery into the status of freedmen, nothing more. It could not be conceive as arising from one’s membership in a free community.

Our Bill of Rights is the world’s greatest monument of negative individual liberty. But our Christian heritage bears the imprint of the deeper idea that true liberty—freedom—derives from connectedness, not separation. Fischer stresses Germanic influences that shaped this tradition, as with Martin Luther, who described the “freedom of a Christian” as a seemingly paradoxical combination of two conditions. Luther said: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none”; at the same time, “A Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.” Through Christ the person is made free, subject to no other person; and yet, the person is also bound in Christ to serve others. Many of us grew up in churches where something like this was taught.

Baptist “soul freedom” is Germanic too, originating in Central Europe and finding a home at last in the United States, for better or worse. Soul freedom springs in part from the narrower sense of liberty one would expect from a historically persecuted sect. It means liberty of conscience first, in the negative, individualistic sense of restricting outside authority in matters of the soul. But it is not only that: issuing from God’s direct, unmediated reign in a person’s heart and mind, soul freedom breaks down barriers all around you as well. It is oneness with God through which you are connected and equalized with everything God loves. As it’s put in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” Luther adds muscle to the point in his Galatians Commentary: “There is neither magistrate nor subject, neither teacher nor hearer . . . neither master nor servant, neither mistress nor maid: for in Christ Jesus, all states, yea, even such as are ordained of God, are nothing.” Notably, the most radical Baptists originally preached and practiced community of goods.

For Roger Williams, the fearless Baptist come-outer and great pioneer of American religious liberties, soul freedom went hand in hand with political democracy and economic equality. He wrote passionately of his struggles to “defend a free people, not enslaved to the bondages and iron yokes of the great oppressions” of the “soul and body.” To these great oppressions, he wrote, “I say liberty and equality, both in land and government.” Now this fits with Fischer’s word study—Williams’ freedom was that of a “free people,” not independent individuals. And the oppressions of a free people were remedied not only by liberty, by political restraint, but by equality in the underlying conditions of a life together, which in Williams’ time meant equality of land.

Williams leads us to the heart of this question of freedom and liberty. The fact is, in America, both traditions are found side by side. This makes sense because we’re a nation of diverse immigrant populations with a national culture synthesized out of many traditions. Strikingly, in common speech, most of the Northern European languages have freedom but not liberty; the Mediterranean languages have liberty but not freedom. Only English contains both (thanks to the Norman Conquest). Only English gives us a choice between liberty and freedom, or the richer possibility of having both, or at least a creative tension between the two. Ethan Allen, the father of Vermont statehood and the first to capture a British fortress in the Revolutionary War (Fort Ticonderoga in 1775), wrote that he and his men, after breaking open the casks of rum, drank to “the liberty and freedom of America.” To our ears today, these may seem like synonyms used for rhetorical effect. But to Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, Fischer argues, they were two different things. And when we recognize how they were different, we realize how impoverished public life has become on the side of liberty as distinct from freedom. As Fischer states:

A person who was born to freedom in an ancient tribe had a sacred obligation to serve and support the folk, and to keep the customs of a free people, and to respect the rights of others on pain of banishment. In modern America too many people have forgotten this side of our inheritance.

Folkways carried these differences as much as language. Compare the Vermont state flag, with its pine tree, cow, and sheaves of wheat (an image from the Vermont coat of arms of 1821) and its motto of “Freedom and Unity,” with Alabama’s  famous secession flag of 1861, which had a blond goddess of liberty holding an unsheathed sword on the front, and on the back a blooming cotton patch guarded by a rattlesnake ready to strike, with the words noli me tangere written underneath, a quote from the New Testament which literally means “do not touch me.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus says “do not touch me” to Mary Magdalene when he appears to her after the Resurrection. The scriptural meaning was simply do not cling to my physical presence. The Confederate meaning was do not touch my human property. When Vermont declared for independent statehood in 1777, breaking away from New York, its Declaration of Rights abolished slavery. It was also the first state to establish universal manhood suffrage, removing property qualifications from the franchise. And it further declared that “private property ought to be subservient to public uses, when necessity requires it.”

The American duality of freedom and liberty is encapsulated in our very Liberty Bell. As a cultural icon, the bell is a symbol of republican liberty—release from tyrannical power and the resting of authority in the consent of the governed, understood as an aggregate of individuals. But look at the scripture verse cast in a ring of raised letters around the top of the bell. It says, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” It’s been quoted so many times that we do not recognize it any more. But, in fact, it is not a random verse and does not refer to political liberty, whatever the intentions of the bell’s Quaker sponsors in the eighteenth century. The verse, of course, is Leviticus 25:10, which proclaims the coming of the Jubilee, Israel’s ancient law of distributive justice.

The biblical Jubilee commanded three basic things: debt forgiveness, the release of slaves, and the redemption of alienated lands back to original family ownership. It was designed to restore economic balance and freedom to the whole people of Israel, protecting small kinship holdings against the predations of any aspiring ruling class. It was a dramatic restorative vision, maybe never implemented in ancient Israel, but deeply embedded in the collective memory of Judeo-Christian peoples and faiths. When Jesus returned from the desert to begin his ministry in Nazareth, he went to the synagogue and read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, where it is written,

The Spirit of the Lord is on me
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,

To release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The “year of the Lord’s favor” is a reference to the Jubilee. For Jesus, there was no more deferral of the ancient justice. “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” he declared. Think of the equivalent policy today. American households are drowning in debt, and only a small percentage of the population owns significant productive assets. The Liberty Bell speaks to this condition, and we don’t even know it. In fact, it did not even acquire the name “Liberty” until the abolitionists began to use it as a symbol of emancipation from slavery (the slaves, notably, used “freedom” more than “liberty” in their prayers and songs). It was only then, briefly, that the deeper meaning of the Jubilee reference began to surface in the language of liberty, echoing with the slaves’ cry for freedom and the communal meaning of freedom. But Reconstruction failed to redistribute the land, and by the end of the century industrial consolidation was fully at hand in the North. The meaning of freedom, if not liberty, was fading fast.

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Lew Daly
Lew Daly is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at Dēmos in New York City (www.demos.org). A writer on religion, political development, and economic thought, Daly's recent books include (with Gar Alperovitz) Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking our Common Inheritance (The New Press 2008), which proposes a new theory of distributive justice based on the collective nature of wealth creation; and God’s Economy (University of Chicago Press, 2009), a comparative study of church-state law and welfare governance in Europe and the United States. He is also the author of God and the Welfare State (The MIT Press, 2006), and has published articles, reviews, and commentary in many publications, including Dissent, Commonweal, Newsweek.com, The Boston Review, Theoria, The Journal of Markets & Morality, Sightings, and Church & Society. Daly was previously a fellow of the Schumann Center for Media & Democracy, where he worked closely with then-president Bill Moyers on special projects. He formerly worked as a research fellow with the Democracy Collaborative of the University of Maryland, and as a researcher and strategist on religious advocacy. In the mid-1990s, Daly did pastoral work in a federal prison as well as community organizing on labor issues. With a B.A. degree from Oberlin College, he holds advanced degrees from Brown University, the University at Buffalo, and Union Theological Seminary. Raised in central New York, he has lived in New York City with his family since 1996.


  1. Lew,
    This is an extremely interesting and important analysis, but I think you are too quick and dismissive in your etymological gloss of the word “liberty.” Liberty – with its root to the Latin liber – does not simply mean “absence of restraint,” as you suggest, but also has connotations of “noble” and “generous” (hence, where we also derive the word “liberality” and, eventually, the word liberal – a political term you might use to describe yourself!). More importantly, “liber” is the opposite of a slave: true, that means that the “liber” is free of restraints at one level, but at another level, the “liber” is also (or ought to be) self-governing. The “liber” is also a citizen, and thus responsible for imposing law upon himself in concert with others.

    This basic concept is also seen in the development of the Greek idea of freedom – that its opposite is the condition of slavery, which is not only or merely the condition of being a slave, but most profoundly the condition of being subject to forces over which you have no control. Even a “free” man can be a slave, if that person is not able to govern the appetites. Thus, for Aristotle, a citizen is a person capable of “ruling and being ruled in turn.” The condition of the “eleutheroi” is not simply that of an absence of external restraint, but the capacity to enforce restraint upon oneself, through self-control and law.

    While you valorize the concept of “freedom” deriving from the Germanic etymology that emphasizes an interpersonal dimension, it’s noteworthy that this backdrop lacks a political dimension. Perhaps for this reason the word “freedom” has – in my view – become more corrupt with individualistic overtones in our current age, mainly because for moderns, the interpersonal (familial, friendship) is simply private, and thus tends to escape considerations of commonweal. While I would agree that the word “liberty” has also been corrupted – and does tend to have the connotation of “negative” liberty for many, as you suggest – its political dimension has, in my view, prevented it from thorough corruption.

    Still, most important finally is not necessarily or finally the etymology, but the extent to which we have a correct understanding of the concept of freedom/liberty that accords with a proper understanding of human anthropology. Until that is corrected, words will continue to lose their meaning.

  2. Excellent analysis. Let me add that modern discussions of freedom tend to be formal and negative; that is, freedom is the absence of restraint. But a formal definition is insufficient for anything, the term also needs a material definition. In Christian philosophy, freedom is positive in that it means one is free to explore (and live) in truth. Such a freedom in infinite because the truth is infinite; our exploration of the truth can never come to an end.

    Human freedom is paradoxical in that man (unlike God) can choose to be unfree, can choose to be a slave. True, our God can take “the form of a slave,” but only by emptying himself of divinity. Our freedom can negate itself, to become its own opposite, which it does when we choose vice over virtue. Thus Michael Novak can assert that in the “freedom” of democratic capitalism, “Every vice must be allowed to flourish.” For Novak, and many other moderns, the vicious is at the heart of freedom, in a kind of free competition with virtue.

    Vice limits freedom, is the negation of freedom. Hence, freedom is paradoxical in that in order for their to be freedom, it must be limited to the good. Contra Novak, a market in which vice flourishes cannot be a free market; a society in which vice flourishes will become a society of slaves. They may have freely chosen their slavery, but they will be slaves nonetheless.

  3. As I published “The Need for Autarchy” and the essay it introduces, “The Empire of Addiction, Part II,” I was haunted that I had failed to address directly the fundamentally Thomist principles that had inspired both. Under the circumstances, my neglect was appropriate; the occasion of both was the ongoing U.S. commitment to an economic system dominated by and privileging transnational corporate power. A vision of Detroit directed my argument. Moreover, one can only do so much in even a pair of essays.

    That said, you — quite excusably — misinterpret the scope of my argument in equating the theory of property I outline with stoicism; so excusable is it, that I wondered aloud this week whether a reader of my essays could make a connection between the emphasis on private ownership and self-subsistence and the arguments for continual and communal interdependence elsewhere. Given the awful practice of many conservatives today of celebrating a radically free market dissolvant of families even as they proclaim in a “separate sphere” their love for and defense of “family values,” it was unfortunate that I should appear to reproduce this “dual consciousness” by seeming to praise autarchy in one place and continual dependence on another elsewhere.

    I left myself open to charges of “stoicism” or the a kind of unworldly republicanism of Jefferson, having offered only one clue to the Thomist foundation beneath my series of claims. I said that true property and true ownership led to the common good. Since I did not explain what that meant, one might have thought I was preaching some sort of “invisible hand” doctrine that insists private greed will make for public virtue. To the contrary, I am merely following Aquinas. Says St. Thomas, all things are initially common property; they may be made contingently private in human society; it is good that property be made private, because a sense of private ownership, of have a fixed stake on a fixed share of property gives one a more profound sense of responsibility for good stewardship. Aquinas, in the Summa, seems almost to rush past the details of private property itself, so anxious is he to remind us of its common origin and to insist on the expressly public nature of private ownership. I’m rather embarrassed not to have made this more explicit, but perhaps may beg the further excuse that Mark Shiffman had adequately explored these questions in his first FPR post on the meaning of property. I’ll work out something more formal for the near future to redeem whatever remains to be redeemed.

    Along with Patrick, I found your etymology fascinating but unexpected. I have written on Burke and Acton’s respective use and confusion of freedom and liberty, wherein Freedom is “negative,” the absence of restraint, whereas “liberty” describes the free action of one raised up through a system of obligations to act noblely. Since I was increasingly unconvinced of my own argument on one aspect of this point (Burke’s distinction of liberty and freedom is at best uncertain), I’ll revisit the question with your illuminating essay and Patrick’s objections in mind.

  4. Thank you for your contribution here, and, as an aside, I return with surprising frequency to reread your Boston Review piece on the Common Good.

    I’m wondering what your response would be to Ernest Fortin on Rerum novarum? In your post you state that the intellectual grounding for Rerum avoided the “anti-human extremes of liberalism and socialism,” but Fortin, in that masterful Theological Studies article from 1992, claimed that the intellectual grounding and assumptions of Rerum attempted to synthesize the antithetical traditions of liberalism and Catholicism–antithetical because one was teleological and the other not.

    For Fortin, modern talk of private property is a decisive break from the tradition, and the encyclical’s use of this language and its assumptions renders somewhat difficult its stated aim, and what I believe is your approval, to defend property without unhinging it from the common good. For the tradition, property is prudential. A very good idea, it ought to be favored whenever possible (read “usually”) but it is not a natural right. But the encyclical uses borrowed language of “inviolable” and “sacred.”

    The Jesuits to whom you refer (Taparelli and Liberatore) are identified by Fortin as using Lockean rather than Thomistic assumptions, and with those assumptions comes this difficulty (I’m paraphrasing what I remember from Fortin): while Leo didn’t intend to declare private property holy, he all but did. What he meant to do and how he did it were at odds.

    The reason this is so interesting, given your post, is you claim Locke seduced the faith in the sentence preceding your positive claims regarding Rerum. But if Fortin is correct, Locke seduced Rerum as well.

    Further, claims Fortin, as Leo shifted the language of private goods and the common good from the tradition of justice to the language of charity, he rendered the principle empty of legal use and leaves it to the discretion of individuals. But isn’t that precisely the issue at hand, a new kind of autarchy as individuals give or use their goods?

    Would appreciate knowing your thoughts on this.

  5. It is true that Leo, under the pressures of socialism, redefined property along Lockean grounds, although he included Thomistic elements. However, the Thomistic element was confined, as you say, to charity and excluded from law. In my opinion, Leo did not make sufficient distinctions between statist and anti-statist forms of (what was then called) “socialism,” and this has caused certain problems ever since. Before Marx, socialism tended to be anti-statist, looking on the state as the prop of property, or at least of the concentrations of property known as “capitalism.” Leo treated all forms of socialism as if they were all Marxism.

    The discussion of private property is traditional, or at least is Thomistic, since Thomas makes a vigorous defense of PP. However, that defense is on pragmatic grounds rather than principled ones. Things just work better when everyone has their own little bit of property to look after. For Thomas, the natural law was common property, with private property a human addition and pragmatic addition to bring forth the common values of property.

    John Paul II would “correct” Leo by making the misuse of property a question of law as well as a violation of charity. This is a critical shift.

    It is rumored that there will be a new social encyclical this month. It will be interesting to see what Pope Benedict does on this issue. He has been good friends with the neoconservative George Wiegel, but had nice things to say about the Frankfurt School in Spe Salvi.

  6. Our Bill of Rights is the world’s greatest monument of negative individual liberty.

    As a means of limiting the power of the Federal government only.

  7. John,

    Do you mean to say that Rerum is traditional because Aquinas also defended PP? For me MacIntyre has made it impossible to agree that because words or concepts are in common that a shared world of discourse exists. I think your next sentences on the prudential basis of PP in Aquinas demonstrate the point: Rerum does not exercise prudential judgment but appeals to the notion of inviolable and sacred natural rights with respect to property.

    That is not a shared discourse, and the implications for equity are simply enormous.

  8. “Freedom was intrinsically a collective idea… it did not refer to individual independence, … [but]… joined by rights of belonging and by reciprocal duties … A belonging that frees the person, as the group is free, must be sustained by an equality of rights and duties within the group, independent of other authorities.”

    I find the similarities between the arguments made here, from the perspective of Christian duty and those shared with the Buddhist philosophy, to be extremely compelling.

    Regardless of labels, the history of persistent ideas has proven deliberate and deductive reasoning ultimately leads to similar conclusions abstracted from personality or geography. Only through continued dedication and diligence can one experience true freedom.

    What an intriguing contradiction.

  9. RJ, I do think RN is within the tradition because the purpose is to get away from accumulations of property to its wider distribution. I do think that the discussion in RN is flawed, mainly because it is overly conditioned by the need to defend property against the socialists. The language used has caused problems in interpretation. It is interesting, to me at least, that Belloc turned RN upside down; the encyclical makes the just wage the key to distributing property, while Belloc makes property the key to obtaining a just wage. Belloc is more correct both from the standpoint of free market economics and from the standpoint of the power relationships involved in a wage negotiation.

    Belloc is correct economically because free market economics depend on the “vast number of firms” hypothesis, which states that all production for any given commodity takes place within such a vast number of firms that no firm, or no likely combination of firms, has any pricing power; they are all price takers rather than price makers. But the precondition for this hypothesis is the widespread distribution of productive property. Thus distributism, or something very like it, stands beneath all free market theories. And in wage negotiations, only a person who has other alternatives to the job–that is, his own property, can actually negotiate. You can’t NO-gotiate if you can’t say “no.”

  10. Take the number of times an American politician says “democracy”, add how many times they say “freedom”, , square that figure and multiply it by how many times they say “liberty” and then add the number of times they say “”American Way of Life” cubed and you will arrive at a large figure that represents the inverse of the truth of the matter at hand.

    In fact, whenever you hear a member of Congress mention any of these words, you are advised to secure your wallet and adopt the bearing of the Allen Brothers because the future of your liberty, freedom and personal way of life are about to be abridged for a greater good that is neither great nor good.

    Imagine that, a state of “freedom” and “liberty” might imply certain restraints and obligations upon the bearer and “responsibility” and abnegation might not be pejorative? what will they think of next?

    The Rattlesnake was a contender for national symbol over what Franklin referred to as “that carrion eating Bald Eagle” It was felt to be a good symbol because it was :
    1. Native and unique to the Americas
    2. Retiring unless provoked, whereupon it warned before striking.
    3. Deadly when provoked

    It would appear the Carrionophagia won out.

  11. I defer to Patrick’s classical know-how on the broader connotations of generosity and self-control in Greco-Roman liberty, but I do think it remains valid and important to distinguish between a freedom associated with individual status and attributes (freedom of Greco-Roman derivation) and a freedom defined by membership in a community, a freedom both protected and limited by the sovereignty of the group (of Northern European derivation). I don’t agree that this communal idea of freedom lacks a political dimension, as Patrick suggests. It has (or had) a political dimension in the non-state sovereignty of the group as determined by what Gierke termed “Genossenschaftsrecht” or “fellowship law.” This dimension of law was obliterated in both French and Anglo-American liberalism but it lived on in the theory of social pluralism advanced in different ways by Maitland, Figgis, and Laski in England, in Dutch Calvinist political thought (Kuyper, Dooyeweerd), and quite formatively in the tradition of French legal sociology (especially in the work of Georges Gurvitch).

    As for Leo XIII’s internalized Lockeanism in his formulation of private property rights, I agree with Ernest Fortin’s assessment (it seems apparent that the younger Liberatore more than Taparelli was the real innovator here, but I’m not sure of that). I think it’s understandable that such a concession to the natural rights tradition would be made in a context of aggressive Marxian-statist attacks on private property, but “sacred” or not, property rights remain subordinate to the common good, strongly so, in the Leonine social tradition from Pius XI through John Paul II. We will know more about how strongly so with the imminent release of Pope Benedict XVI’s “Caritas in Veritate,” his major economic encyclical. The influence of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde on Benedict is being discussed as suggestive of a radicalization of official teaching. See here, http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1338746?eng=y ,
    for an article discussing Böckenförde’s influence, including a re-post of a recent explosive article by the German jurist arguing for a radical reconstruction of economic foundations.


  12. Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde’s is renowned for formulating our dilemma thus:

    “The liberal secular state lives on premises that it is not able to guarantee by itself.”

    and discussed by a cross section of academe (including a personal favorite Charles Taylor) here:


  13. incidentally, both aspects (an individual autonomy in liberty, and the freedom of mutual exclusivity) are implicated in Benedict XVI’s last encyclical Spe Salvi as being metaphysically unresolved without an eternal hope in the Redeemer :

    “In this regard our contemporary age has developed the hope of creating a perfect world that, thanks to scientific knowledge and to scientifically based politics, seemed to be achievable. Thus Biblical hope in the Kingdom of God has been displaced by hope in the kingdom of man, the hope of a better world which would be the real “Kingdom of God”… (as fans of “liberation theology” would have us believe perhaps? CK)…It has also become clear that this hope is opposed to freedom, since human affairs depend in each generation on the free decisions of those concerned. If this freedom were to be taken away, as a result of certain conditions or structures, then ultimately this world would not be good, since a world without freedom can by no means be a good world. Hence, while we must always be committed to the improvement of the world, tomorrow’s better world cannot be the proper and sufficient content of our hope. And in this regard the question always arises: when is the world “better”? What makes it good? By what standard are we to judge its goodness?”

    … stay tuned!

  14. Thank you for this great article. Indeed our purchasing power, with us populates Western, weakens. Our education weakens. Our will to inform us and to beat us weakens. Our means of making us hear and our forces will be less and less large as our elites eat the shares of the cakes. Will the day arrive where we will not be able to preserve our republic more? http://bit.ly/6jS9V0

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