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Does John Courtney Murray's Defense of Freedom Extend to Economics? An Austrian Perspective

William R. Luckey


Theologian John Courtney Murray was the primary motivator behind the Vatican II document, The Declaration on Religious Liberty. Murray and that document held that man had an inherent dignity that does not allow coercion in religious belief by public or private groups or institutions. Only religious actions detrimental to public order were to be subject to State regulation. Despite his insistence on human dignity and freedom in religious matters, Murray seems to accept the pre-Centesimus Annus Catholic view that the free economy, while a good thing in essence, is a dangerous entity requiring heavy governmental supervision. Various authors, some with approval, some with dismay, use this view to prove that Murray, and the older Catholic view as well, are Socialist. This paper argues that Murray, who admitted that he was not an economist and who used the views of another noneconomist, Adolph Berle, as his starting point, is inconsistent with his own views. This means that if Murray followed his own teaching on religious liberty, and if he was instructed in the discipline of economics in order to correct badly understood concepts, he would have accepted the free market without the qualifications he added.

William R. Luckey, "Does John Courtney Murray's Defense of Freedom Extend to Economics? An Austrian Perspective," Journal of Markets & Morality 5, no. 2 (Fall 2002): 425-438

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