Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dorothy Day, Libertarian

June E. O’Connor, quoted by Ryan W. McMaken, says the great woman "preferred the words libertarian, decentralist and personalist" — More on Dorothy Day, Anarchist.

Why Ayn Rand, and not Servant of God Dorothy Day, is associated with the word "libertarian," especially by self-styled libertarians, but also by their detractors, is beyond this blogger. Rand, after all, was a statist when it came to the Cold War; Day was a self-described "pacifist even in the class war." An appreciation I wrote of the great woman a few years ago — Dorothy Day's anarcho-Catholicism: The way of love.

'Twas Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy's tome The Kingdom of God Is Within You, which I stumbled upon at the 1988 Anarchist Survival Gathering in Toronto, that led me back to my baptismal faith, but I also have long since "preferred the words libertarian, decentralist and personalist." Chalk it up to a recognition of Man's fallen nature.

The photo that graces this post reminds me of the observation of another Christian anarchist, grandson and great-grandson of presidents, and America's greatest man of letters, that "[i]n no well-regulated community, under a proper system of police, could the Virgin feel at home, and the same thing may be said of most other saints as well as sinners" — Henry Adams on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Perhaps Libertarians don't claim Day because the fundamental orientation of Day towards things that the vast majority of Libertarians are opposed to. At the end of the day, as Kirk pointed out, Libertarianism is an ideology, and ideology is always a substitute for religious faith. Since Day was a woman of deep faith, she doesn't fit the Ayn Rand model of what a Libertarian is supposed to be.

Of course, I don't agree with all of Day's political positions (although I don't dispute her sanctity), yet I still think if she characterized herself as a Libertarian, she was mistaken. She believed in community, in tradition, in religious communities and religious faith, in the bonds of family and the idea that human life finds meaning in community rather than in selfish individualism.

Kirk observed that most people who call themselves Libertarians really aren't -- they are just conservatives laboring under a misperception.

12:27 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

[A reader sent the following by email.]

Not only did Dorothy Day describe herself as a libertarian, but from
what I understand in my conversations with Randians, is that Ayn Rand
explicitly objected to the term libertarian and libertarianism. For
more on this, see this note from the Ayn Rand Center:

"Ayn Rand was not a libertarian and rejected this movement on
principle. Rand held that political freedom cannot survive without a
foundation of reason and egoism, a view developed at length in her
novel Atlas Shrugged. Libertarianism rejects the need for a
systematic, philosophic defense of freedom. Accordingly, the "hybrid
form of laissez-faire capitalism and collectivism," mentioned in your
review, is simply the latest contradictory policy flowing from the
libertarian contempt for philosophy."

Dorothy Day, pray for America.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Nevertheless, most current Libertarians count Rand as one of their heroes -- note their praise of that badly made movie based on one of her novels.

Now, we could argue about whether Libertarians are coherent to claim Rand -- I find it an incoherent and ultimately futile way of thinking about human relationships and human government and human economics.

1:33 AM  

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.