Michael Novak was the leading Catholic public intellectual of his generation. Like Irving Kristol, to whom Novak alone among those in that category can be compared, he began on the Left but moved to the Right as reflection on the human condition conspired with events in the world to lead him to embrace what he labeled “democratic capitalism.”
At the heart of the Novakian vision is freedom—free people, free markets, free institutions. But Novak’s vision of freedom, like Kristol’s, is not the doctrinaire libertarianism that the word evokes for many today. Much less is it the “me generation” liberal counterfeit of freedom that licenses people to do whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want, so long as there is no immediate palpable harm to others.