If any theologian in church history could truly be said to contain multitudes, it would be the great bishop of Hippo. But an anarcho-libertarian is probably not among the residents of Augustine’s mind. Or at least, so argues Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig:
Both the state and property therefore have positive moral contributions to make to human society insofar as they support the common good. It’s impossible to squeeze a libertarian conclusion, in which the purpose of the state is simply to support pre-existing rights to private property, out of Augustine’s political theology, so I find it totally bizarre the von Mises folks are poking around with him. They’re quite correct states can’t combat sin, but by that suspicion they also indict private property, which is sort of the core of their ethos, and in doing so raise the question: so what are these things for? Which in the Augustinian frame will not yield an answer they want to hear.
Andrew Fulford is currently studying for a PhD in Reformation history.
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