man-stealing-breadFive year ago, Roman Ostriakov, a homeless Ukrainian living in Italy, attempted to steal cheese and sausages worth $4.50 (€4.07). Before he could leave the supermarket, though, Ostriakov was caught and convicted of theft. He was ordered to pay a fine of $115 (€100) and spend six months in jail.

But Italy’s supreme court has overturned the conviction, writing:

The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the merchandise theft took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of need.

“For the judges, the right to survival has prevailed over the right to property,” says Massimo Gramellini, an editor of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. He adds that in America this would be “blasphemy.”

Gramellini is partially right. While the court was right to show mercy to Ostriakov, they’ve essentially set of precedent for legalized theft. While it may seem compassionate for the judges to allow those in need to have access to other people’s property, the result is likely to lead to greater harm of the poor.
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At Catholic Vote, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg joins the web site’s political director Josh Mercer to look into the reasons why socialist and Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders “was invited by ‘the Vatican’ (actually: Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences) to speak on income inequality.” Gregg and Mercer also discuss whether socialism is on the rise here in the United States. Tune in here.

Evangelicals are known for referring to America as a “Christian nation,” sometimes as a nod to its basic demographic disposition, but more often as a deeper theological statement about the country’s founding and spiritual status.

Whether viewed through the mundane misapplications of Old Testament scripture or the more highly entrenched revisionism of Christian “historians” like David Barton, there is a popular view among evangelicals that America has access to a sort of pre-New Testament covenant. Given such a mindset, we shouldn’t be surprised when our political activity aligns accordingly, pursuing the common good far too often from the (political) top down.

In a new video from The Gospel Coalition, Russell Moore explains the theological error that underlies such thinking, pointing the way toward a proper Gospel understanding.

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Banca_Monte_dei_Paschi_di_Siena_in_Pisa“Money has not only the character of money,” says Samuel Gregg in this week’s Acton Commentary, “but it also has a productive character which we commonly call capital.”

Like all medieval clergy, Olivi and Bernardine fiercely opposed usury. “Usury,” Bernardine wrote, “concentrates the money of the community in the hands of a few, just as if all the blood in a man’s body ran to his heart and left his other organs depleted.” Yet the same Bernardine also invested time in explaining why it was legitimate for creditors to charge interest on loans to compensate themselves for relinquishing the opportunity to invest their money elsewhere. In such circumstances, the lender had a right to be compensated for what amounted to foregone profits. “What,” Bernardine maintained, “in the firm purpose of its owner is ordained to some probable profit has not only the character of mere money or a mere thing, but also beyond this, a certain seminal character of something profitable, which we commonly call capital.”

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

NewTotalitarianThe New Totalitarian Temptation “is the best book ever written about the European Union,” says John Fonte, who just reviewed it for National Review. Acton’s director of international outreach, Todd Huizinga, wrote Totalitarian Temptation based on his experience with the U.S. Foreign Service in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Germany. As an American who spent two decades living and working in Europe, he has a few things to say about the European Union and its decline into a soft utopia.

Fonte, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, says:

At the core of the EU is the belief in supranationalism. The proponents of the EU consciously portray its supranational institutions as a model for “global governance.” In this intended utopia, all nation-states in the future would cede national sovereignty, and thus political and legal authority, to supranational institutions, just as today the European Court of Justice is a higher legal authority for Germans than their own courts, and most British laws originate not in the House of Commons but in the European Commission in Brussels. From the EU perspective, supranationalism is necessary to achieve world peace and global human rights.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
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Conservatives in Congress urge shutdown of tax-collecting IRS
Susan Cornwell, Reuters

It’s a U.S. taxpayer’s dream: make the Internal Revenue Service go away, and the largest conservative group in Congress is endorsing just that.

The Left Replaces Rule of Law with Rule of Politics
Stephen M. Krason, Crisis Magazine

The rule of law based merely upon ideological prescriptions fashioned by men essentially becomes a rule of politics.

Why Trump’s Government Spending Will Destroy The Economy
Willis L. Krumholz, The Federalist

Many GOP voters think they’re getting something new in Donald Trump. Actually, they are opting for Bushonomics and Obamanomics on steroids.

The Crime of Nations: The Underappreciated Role of Family Factors
Robert VerBruggen, Family Studies

Nations with young mothers and absent fathers also tend to have high crime rates.

actonLord Acton was a man of multitudes: he had a scholar’s library of about 67,000 volumes, his notes and manuscripts in the Cambridge library fill some 50,000 pages, and he produced 200 definitions of liberty. Yet despite his productivity, the man who was once called “the most learned Englishman alive” never published a book.

At Open Letters Monthly, Luciano Mangiafico takes a in-depth look at the fascinating life of Lord Acton:

Contradictions in Acton’s life and views abound: although he never graduated from university, he received several prestigious honorary doctor’s degrees and from 1895 to his death held the chair of Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, where he delivered his first lecture at the age of 60. As he had no college degrees, before he could start in his new profession and enjoy some of the professorial privileges, he was granted a Master of Arts Degree; when his head was measured to make sure the cap fit correctly, it turned out that he had the largest head on record at the university; ruefully, he commented in a letter that he imagined that poet Robert Browning, who also had a large head, might take umbrage.

Read more . . .