The point of these opening remarks is not merely to show appropriate courtesy to my hosts. It is also to set the proper context for what I want to speak about today. Other Austrian-influenced scholars have argued for the compatibility of Austrian economics and Catholic social thought. Thomas Woods has made the case eloquently in his important new book The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy and I recommend that work to anyone with a serious interest in these matters. But my aim today is not to explore further the many positive contributions the Austrian tradition might make to Catholic social thought. You might say that I want instead to accentuate the negative. For while the Austrian tradition certainly has many strengths from a Catholic point of view, it seems to me that it also has certain weaknesses. In particular, I would argue that the work of Austrian thinkers, including Hayek and Rothbard, has been deficient where it has strayed from economics per se and forayed into the realm of moral theory. My critique is an internal one, though, a friendly challenge to Austrian sympathizers from someone who shares their sympathy. The suggestion I want to develop today is that while Catholic social theorists do indeed have much to learn from Austrian economists, Austrian economists – or at least those Austrian economists already sympathetic to Catholicism and/or to the natural law approach to moral theory associated with Catholic thought – ought to consider the possibility that they might have much to learn from Catholic social thought. My broader aim is to clear away some obstacles standing in the way of the construction of an adequate synthesis of free market economics and natural law ethics. [Read more]You can listen to the same lecture here.
Edward Feser has a regular blog of his own, and of his many books is best known for Aquinas (A Beginner's Guide) (2009) and The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (2009), and is also editor of The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006).