Dave Gallagher

Necessary Evil

More About: Philosophy: Libertarianism

The Heart of Peace ... the Individual

I am convinced that respect for the person promotes peace -Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope has issued his message for "World Peace Day". The foundations of the Holy Father's message will come as no surprise to libertarians and certainly not to anarcho-capitalists (pdf).

Benedict opens with an acknowledgment of the "necessary evil" (my characterization) of governments and those who suffer by their actions and in particular the children who have no say in the matter. He goes on to place the individual at the "heart of peace".


At the beginning of the new year, I wish to extend prayerful good wishes for peace to Governments, leaders of nations and all men and women of good will. In a special way, I invoke peace upon all those experiencing pain and suffering, those living under the threat of violence and armed aggression, and those who await their human and social emancipation, having had their dignity trampled upon. I invoke peace upon children, who by their innocence enrich humanity with goodness and hope, and by their sufferings compel us all to work for justice and peace. Out of concern for children, especially those whose future is compromised by exploitation and the malice of unscrupulous adults, I wish on this World Day of Peace to encourage everyone to reflect on the theme: The Human Person, the Heart of Peace. I am convinced that respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism. In this way a serene future is prepared for coming generations.

The Pope continues characterizing peace as both "a gift and a task". He describes in essence what we call the non-aggression axiom. Contrary to the typical legalistic debate of "enforcing" the non-aggression principle via the state, Benedict implores us (especially believers and presumably our political leaders who claim Christ as theirs) to willfully submit to this aspect of the natural law.

The criterion inspiring this response can only be respect for the "grammar" written on human hearts by the divine Creator.

From this standpoint, the norms of the natural law should not be viewed as externally imposed decrees, as restraints upon human freedom. Rather, they should be welcomed as a call to carry out faithfully the universal divine plan inscribed in the nature of human beings. Guided by these norms, all peoples —within their respective cultures—can draw near to the greatest mystery, which is the mystery of God. Today too, recognition and respect for natural law represents the foundation for a dialog between the followers of the different religions and between believers and non-believers. As a great point of convergence, this is also a fundamental presupposition for authentic peace.

One of the most divisive issues among libertarians is that of abortion. Obviously the key to this disagreement is the determination of the unborn as "persons" who are also entitled to protection from aggression. Although this debate continues, this point is a crucial one to in the persuasion of those who believe in the personhood of the unborn and oppose abortion. For these people to embrace unjust wars is nothing short of delusional.

I am reminded too of a similar statement made by congressman Ron Paul, who said "Respect for human life originates with individuals acting according to their consciences. History teaches us that governments overwhelmingly violate the sanctity of human life rather than uphold it... A pro-life culture must arise from each of us as individuals, not by the edict of an amoral federal government."Peace means respect for life and respect for life means seeking peace.

As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society: alongside the victims of armed conflicts, terrorism and the different forms of violence, there are the silent deaths caused by hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia. How can we fail to see in all this an attack on peace? Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace. As far as the free expression of personal faith is concerned, another disturbing symptom of lack of peace in the world is represented by the difficulties that both Christians and the followers of other religions frequently encounter in publicly and freely professing their religious convictions. Speaking of Christians in particular, I must point out with pain that not only are they at times prevented from doing so; in some States they are actually persecuted, and even recently tragic cases of ferocious violence have been recorded. There are regimes that impose a single religion upon everyone, while secular regimes often lead not so much to violent persecution as to systematic cultural denigration of religious beliefs. In both instances, a fundamental human right is not being respected, with serious repercussions for peaceful coexistence. This can only promote a mentality and culture that is not conducive to peace.

Benedict's linking of the various assaults on life and peace, as well as the importance of religious freedom, place his statement simultaneously at odds with many Christian Conservatives and secular progressives. Perhaps the the greatest objection by libertarians however will come as he addresses the increasing scarcity of natural resources and contemplates the the obvious implications, here he sets up the debate detailed so well by Thomas Woods in his commentary on the unresolved tension between the social teaching of the church and economic law.

Benedict closes by speaking of the "Way of peace and enlightening our vision so that we can "recognize Christ's face in the face of every human person" and this he says is the heart of peace!.

May the new year be a happy, prosperous, and most importantly, a peaceful one.

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