Friars in the City

The Washington Post carries a very interesting story about the growth of a Roman Catholic Religious Order. Two things I find interesting from a libertarian/free market perspective:

1) The number of Catholic Religious (priests, nuns, monks, friars etc.) has shrunk enormously in the United States. I knew it was shrinking but I hadn’t seen hard numbers. According to the piece, the number of Religious has declined from 214,932 in 1967 to 85,284 today. (By the way, in 1967, that means that the Catholic religious orders collectively likely employed more people than any company other than GM and Penn Central.)

2) The growth of an order that’s rigidly collectivist in every way — the brothers “still live together, pray together and wear traditional garb” and eschew television — makes a very important point about life in a liberal society. Liberal freedoms are not intended to make everyone a rugged individualist. Instead, they exist to give people choices. Anyway, if everyone took advantage of every freedom granted by a liberal society then we’d presumably all be polygamists, living on rural compounds with our guns, making porn, and worshiping the Goat God Pan.