Chartres 2006
Photo Story

Remnant Tours

Click Here to visit
THE REMNANT Scrapbook!


See Remnant


Fury in the Cult of Rothbard

Ferrara Responds to Woods' Latest Attack

Christopher A. Ferrara POSTED: 6/24/11

 (  While I was in the midst of the Remnant’s annual pilgrimage in France, someone forwarded me an email he had received from Lew Rockwell containing a link to the blogsite of Tom Woods, where—for the umpteenth time since he vowed to “ignore” me—Woods has posted an article attacking me and my book The Church and the Libertarian(TCTL). More than a year after TCTL first appeared in print, it seems Woods cannot restrain himself from issuing monthly updates on how awful the book is.

During the pilgrimage I was met with the unexpected burden of participating by telephone in a three-hour oral argument of summary judgment motions in a major federal civil rights suit involving a mass arrest and imprisonment of pro-life advocates. I had to conduct my portion of the argument from a remote French village (Notre-Dame-du-Laus) while sitting on a bed with my laptop and handwritten notes, phone held to my ear as I contended with opposing counsel physically present in a courtroom back in the United States. The pressure was intense. Little diabolical vexations like Woods’s latest outburst always seem to arrive at times like these, when there is serious work to do. But I suppose at this point, having returned from France, prudence dictates that I say something in response to Woods, as his articles “ignoring” me threaten to go on forever. (Note to Woods:  Any time now, you can move on to another villainous opponent of your views.)

Clearly the cult of Murray Rothbard, of which Woods and Rockwell are the most prominent Catholic spokesmen, is concerned about the impact TCTL is having. Woods has even enlisted a fellow cult member, one Tony Flood, who describes himself as a “Christian anarchist,” to engage in an extraordinary exercise: a page-by-page, line-by-line, and even word-by-word scrutiny of the text. Woods evidently hopes Flood will find something—anything, please!—to distract attention from the substance of my contentions, to which Woods has not even attempted an answer.

Flood’s stated ambition is “to spend the balance of his life as a hard-bopping jazz guitarist” (cf. “Tony Flood’s House of Hard Bop” web  page), but it appears he has opted for spending the balance of his life in the search for something wrong with my book. Flood has devoted an entire blogsite to “refuting” TCTL with an endless, niggling commentary to which Woods’s blog is linked, but with the comments feature turned off so that no one can point out that Flood is getting nowhere while misrepresenting my work with cropped quotations that hide what I actually wrote.

Having sampled a few of Tony’s Tricks, I have since kept a promise to myself that I would avoid following his blogospheric bloviating, to which he permits no response in any event. But Woods keeps posting selections from it under banner headlines, along with his affirmation-of-the-month that I am a bounder and a cad.

An example of Flood’s niggling: his “finding” that, as Woods announces exultantly, I “criticized Carl Menger [a founder of the Austrian School] on the basis of an unfinished student project at Hebrew University...” Please. I quoted exactly five words from the work of a doctoral candidate—“fin-de-siécle Viennese modernism”—as a passing reference to the historical context of the Austrian School founders as laissez-faire liberals. The phrase was not “the basis” of any discussion of any issue in the book.

On and on Flood goes with his irrelevant nitpicking, promptly trumpeted by Woods in regular announcements that Flood is “dismantling” the book (which Woods has apparently never read). Yet both Flood and Woods are ducking every major issue TCTL discusses, including the cult’s absolutely inevitable and self-parodic defense of Scrooge—yes, literally a defense of Scrooge—as an admirable example of Austrian School “free market” principles at work.  (Cf.  TCTL, Ch. 15).  As I show in the book, if an Austrian cannot defend Scrooge, he cannot defend the free market absolutism of the cult. He will find himself following, more or less, the social teaching of the Church, just as Scrooge does after his miraculous conversion.

Woods and his fellow “Catholic anarcho-capitalists” will not engage in an honest debate of what they stand for, which is what TCTL exposes. Yet they cannot ignore what I have written because it was the first book (there is now another, authored by a retired member of the London Stock Exchange) that exposes the intellectual fraud Woods and his employer, Rockwell’s Mises Institute, are attempting to perpetrate. Part of the Institute’s mission is to sell Catholics an outrageously phony bill of goods: that a school of thought dedicated to the legacy of a radically laissez-faire liberal agnostic who defended the legal right to starve unwanted children to death—one of the many amoral outcomes of Rothbard’s bizarre “ethics of liberty”—represents what Woods calls a “venerable tradition” whose principles Catholics can embrace.  (Cf. TCTL, pp. 68-72).

Mind you, this “venerable tradition” is hard to pin down.  Woods is never clear on exactly what it entails. Like the other Catholic members of the cult, he is constantly shifting ground to evade the objections of his many orthodox Catholic critics. At one moment Woods argues that the “venerable tradition” is merely Austrian School economics, involving technical matters such as the law of returns or the heterogeneity of capital. Well, who could object to that?  But in the next moment—whenever he thinks he can get away with it—we find Woods promoting a “venerable tradition” of full-blown radical libertarianism, including Rothbard’s “anarcho-capitalism” and “ethics of liberty.” One thing is certain, however: “Austrian economics” is never just “Austrian economics.” The cult’s radical libertarian baggage is always there, ready to be unpacked whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Article Continues Below...

Reviews of the Book Radical Libertarians Still Can't Stop Talking About!


"Ferrara brilliantly explains the application of Catholic social teaching

to economics and the State like no one before."


Catholic apologist, author; host of EWTN’s "Catholic Q & A" radio program


"Mr. Ferrara has written a 383-page instant classic, chock full of arguments bound to greet libertarians with many challenges, and will serve as a resource for families for many generations to come."


Contributing editor for Gilbert Magazine; co-editor The Distributist Review


I applaud this book, and hope it gains a wide readership."


Thomas Aquinas College


"The Best Books I read in 2010...The Church and the Libertarian, by Christopher Ferrara. There is no longer any excuse for Catholics to defend Von Mises."


President and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society


"More than a brilliant polemic against a dangerous ideology and its high-profile Catholic defenders (a sad but necessary duty), The Church and the Libertarian is also a dazzling vindication of Catholic social teaching. I found it not only mind-clearing, but soul-stirring."


Former editor Conservative Book Club; Creator of Regnery Publishing’s "Politically Incorrect Guide" series.


"And yet there were Catholic academics who endorsed this book.  This is beyond laughable.  To lend support to a crude, propagandistic, uninformed, uncharitable, confused jumble of vitriol and straw men, and ignorantly describing such a book as a devastating takedown of a venerable tradition of thought these academics do not know the first thing about, is a grotesque betrayal of the very mission of the university."


Senior Scholar, Von Mises Institute


Available for $25.00 (plus $3.00 p&h) from:

The Remnant Press, P.O. Box 1117 Forest Lake, MN 55025

A case in point: “But I follow Murray Rothbard,” Woods declared on camera during one of those unguarded  moments when the “venerable tradition” was at its most expansive.  During this webcast in defense of anarcho-capitalism, Woods recommended that viewers read one of Rothbard’s many anarchist screeds, “Anatomy of the State,” wherein the late guru denounces “priestcraft,” belittles the union of Church and State as an “ideological device” of tyrants, and calls for the abolition of all known forms of government in favor of an anarcho-capitalist utopia in which the State withers away as it does in the Marxian narrative. Read Rothbard’s all-important defense of anarcho-capitalism, Woods enthused, and “You’ll never look at the world the same way again.” (Cf. TCTL,  p. 252).  Yes, once one quaffs Rothbard’s cup of Kool Aid one will see everything differently. Nothing cultish there.

Woods’s defense of the “venerable tradition” includes his public advocacy of Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalist view that the only morally legitimate function of law is to prevent “physical invasion” of the person or property of another—an idea even the radical Enlightenment divines stopped short of advocating.  (Cf. TCTL, p. 66). In fact, another of Woods’s fellow cult members, the “traditional Catholic” Jeffrey Tucker, following his master Rothbard, defends the “venerable tradition” by calling for  legalization of “gay marriage” and “gay adoption” on the ground that “the social, cultural, and religious conflicts associated with gay marriage and adoption are best resolved through laissez-faire.”  (Cf. TCTL, 245-249). The Church, of course, condemns the radically laissez-faire social order of the “venerable tradition” as contrary to divine and natural law.  (Cf. TCTL, Chapter 5).

An indispensable element of the “venerable tradition” is the thought of Rothbard’s mentor, Ludwig von Mises. Mises’s denunciation of Christ and the Gospels as the root of socialist tyranny and Christianity as a “religion of hatred” is the subject of Chapter 4 of TCTL. Mises’s “praxeology,” a kooky, mechanistic reduction of human action to the relief of “uneasiness” according to a personal subjective value scale of unsatisfied wants and needs, led him (quite logically under his premise) to deny the existence of God. As Mises would have it, an almighty God cannot exist, for such a being would experience no “uneasiness” and thus no impulse to act. (Cf. TCTL, pp. 57-59). Woods has been cornered into admitting privately that this is “idiotic,” but he dare not say so publicly as the cult would excommunicate him for calling its Moses an idiot.

Woods’s own writings reveal that the entire “venerable tradition” rests upon an idea explicitly condemned by Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno as “a poisoned spring” from which “have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic thinking”: that the “free” market of unfettered competition, as Pius writes, has “a principle of self-direction which governs it more perfectly than would the intervention of any created intellect.” In other words, the market under its “laws” is self-regulating in a manner akin to the physical universe under the laws of physics. As I show in TCTL, that is precisely what Woods maintains in his adulation of the market as representing “the finger of God” in operation. (Cf. TCTL, 115-119)

This free market theodicy is a repackaged artifact of the 18th century deism of Enlightenment dechristianizers, yet Woods defends “the poisoned spring” against the teaching of Pius, complaining bitterly in his The Church and the Market that “Pius rejects out of hand the fundamental posture of liberal economics according to which the market left to itself ‘would have a principle of self-direction which governs it more perfectly than any created intellect.’” (Cf. TCTL, 116-117). Precisely! In promoting their “venerable tradition,” including “the fundamental posture of liberal economics,” Woods and his fellow cult members oppose the contrary teachings of the Magisterium, repeated by Pope and after Pope and imposed as binding on the Catholic conscience by Saint Pius X in Singulari Quadem. (Cf. TCTL, 169-170 and 173-206).

With good reason is the above-mentioned new book on libertarian errors entitled The Poisoned Spring of Economic Liberalism—a nod to Pius XI. The author, Angus Sibley, devotes a chapter to Woods in the section entitled “Catholic Libertarianism?” and concludes the book with a section exploring the question: “Is Libertarianism a Heresy?” Nine years ago, before Woods and I had our falling out over his views, Tom Fleming of Chronicles coined the term “Austrian heresy.”  By this Fleming does not mean heresy in the strict canonical sense (Woods plays to the grandstand by disingenuously whining that his critics are trying to “excommunicate” him), but rather the fundamental opposition between the papal social teaching and the “venerable tradition” Woods has been promoting so evasively contra the Popes. Now that Sibley has joined the chorus of Catholic critics who have had it with Woods’s con job, perhaps Woods will induce Flood to open a new blogsite dedicated to “refuting” Sibley. That will leave very little time for hard-bop jazz guitar, but there is no doubt that the overriding preoccupation of members of the cult is to destroy all opponents of their Rothbardian vision of Man, Economy, and State (the title of Rothbard’s magnum opus).

I have given here only a few indications from TCTL of why the Magisterium and Woods’s “venerable tradition” are utterly irreconcilable. Yet Woods and his fellow cultists continue to promote the bald-faced lie that the “venerable tradition” is perfectly Catholic. And, like the Church of Scientology, the cult of Rothbard resorts to character assassination in an attempt to discredit anyone who exposes the cult’s true beliefs.  Thus, instead of addressing the substance of TCTL, which he avoids like a vial of anthrax, Woods has spent the past year publicly and repeatedly accusing me of envy, spite, pettiness, vindictiveness, dishonesty, stupidity, pathological obsession, lack of charity, lack of learning, and even child neglect. No blow is too low for the cult’s chief polemicist, a glibly sophistical pitchman who presents himself as a serious intellectual interested only in “advancing knowledge.” Woods has even denounced as “doltish” all the respected Catholics who have given TCTL favorable reviews, accusing the academics among them of a “grotesque betrayal of the very mission of the university.” (There are betrayals, you see, and then there are grotesque betrayals, which are much worse.) Catholics who oppose the cult and its “venerable tradition” are dolts, knaves or some combination of the two. That is the level of discourse on which Woods is most comfortable.

I will not be intimidated. (Then again, who would be intimidated by a polemic on the level of a high school debate team?)  In fact, TCTL will soon be in its second printing, for the book is a crossover success among non-traditionalists and even non-Catholics who share with us a commitment to Catholic social teaching as the antidote to the same old liberal errors the Rothbardites are trying to pass off as a “venerable tradition” at the very moment in history when those errors are sealing the doom of “our dying Capitalist civilization,” as Chesterton called it. So the Popes have warned us in a long line of social encyclicals Woods and the cult reject.

Finally, it is one thing for liberal Jewish agnostics like Rothbard and Mises to hold the errors which are the subject of TCTL.  One can hardly be surprised that men without the Faith or the grace of the sacraments suffered defects in their reason that produced erring and even monstrous conclusions. But it is quite another thing—and this is why I wrote the book—for Catholics like Woods to conduct a campaign to persuade Catholics that a radical libertarian movement founded on the thought of these two philosophical and ethical bunglers is compatible with the teaching of the Church and the law of the Gospel.

Some five years before TCTL appeared, the renowned Catholic economist Rupert Ederer wrote that Woods is engaged in “objective dissent from moral teachings by the Catholic Church,” a dissent he advances with “pretentious and presumptuous... pomposity” and “a despicable display of hubris!” (Cf. TCTL, 9-10, 184). Ederer’s words are far harsher than anything I have ever written about Woods, yet the comment was fair. Woods can bluster all he likes, but the truth about the cult of Rothbard he is laboring so hard to obfuscate will be plainly evident to any discerning Catholic.  In the end, Woods will not be fooling anybody but himself.

  HOME    |    PRINT SUBSCRIBE    |    E-EDITION    |    ADVERTISE    |    NEWS    |    ARTICLES   |    RESOURCES    |    ABOUT    |    CONTACT
Web Format and Content   ©  1996-2010 Remnant Press