Category: Acton Commentary

While some environmentalists claim that Judaism and Christianity have been neglectful of environmental concerns, the history of these faith traditions shows otherwise. Matthea Brandenburg looks at the patristic witness, using the recent work of an Eastern Catholic scholar who argues that prayer and a healthy, every-day asceticism can keep relations between Creation and Creator on solid footing. What’s more, we should also be cautious about secularized views of nature offered by contemporary Gnostics—technocrats with “special” knowledge. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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“Crime has been in decline,” says Acton Research Fellow Jonathan Witt, in an article for The American Spectator, “but current government policies are bound to reverse this trend.”

Against the backdrop of sluggish growth and high unemployment, one bright spot has been declining crime rates, with levels in the United States now about half what they were 20 years ago. This gradual decline holds true even in the perennially high-risk demographic of young men, suggesting it isn’t merely a knock-on effect of an aging population. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that current government policies may reverse this downward trend.

Witt’s article will also be featured in today’s Acton Commentary.  Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
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“There has always been a generous spirit in America towards the downtrodden, but it’s time to realize that we are no longer being generous: the government is leading us merrily along the path of fiscal fugue,” writes Elise Hilton. So why are federal officials advising benefit applicants that they shouldn’t be “discouraged by funding issues”? The full text of her essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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Blog author: jballor
Monday, April 1, 2013
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In the current Acton Commentary, I take a look at what I call a “modern-day Robinson Crusoe,” the survivalist Richard Proenneke of “Alone in the Wilderness” fame.

But as I also note in the piece, there are some other instances of this classic shipwrecked literary device, including the TV show Lost. The basic point of these reflections on community and the human person is that no man is an island, even when they are on an island.

Consider this speech with the conclusion “if we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone,” from Jack Shephard, in Lost episode 1.5, “White Rabbit.”

As the tagline of the “Hang Together” blog reminds us, the dynamic between human sociality and community is at the heart of the American experiment in ordered liberty. As Benjamin Franklin put it, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Not Quite Alone in the Wilderness,” I examine the intergenerational infrastructure of innovation and civilization through the lens of Richard “Dick” Proenneke, whose efforts to build a cabin in the Alaskan wild, alone and by hand, are recorded in the popular documentary, often featured on PBS.

Here’s a clip that gives an extended introduction into the project:

As Proenneke says, “I was alone, just me and the animals.” In his recent book Redeeming Economics, John Mueller relates how classical economists would often use the fictional example of Robinson Crusoe, who was shipwrecked on an island and left to survive alone, to get at the anthropological knowledge necessary for a coherent political economy. In this week’s piece, I do something like this with Proenneke, whose experiment has the advantage of being something that actually happened.
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When government provision is expected in all areas of life we begin to neglect our personal obligations to our families and neighbors, says Dylan Pahman, assistant editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. “For the ancient Jews, intergenerational relations were a religious matter,” says Pahman. “The command ‘honor your father and mother’ (cf. Exodus 20:12) served as a bridge between duties to God and duties to neighbors. Our situation today may be quite different than that faced by Jews in the Roman Empire, but our problem is the same: We are missing the mark when it comes to our primary duties to one another.” The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
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Adam-eve-priest-animals-riverIn today’s Acton Commentary, I explore the Christian conception of law as a necessary palliative to the anti-social effects of sin. “Since we do not always govern ourselves as we ought to, in accord with the moral order, there must be some external checks and limits on our behavior,” I write.

In a complementary post over at There is Power in the Blog (the blog of the journal Political Theology), I also explore the theme of “Proper Reverence for Political Authority.” There I draw explicitly on the example of Abraham Kuyper, who sees “the state” as a uniquely post-lapsarian institution, but who also sees social and even political life as a natural expression of human nature.

There’s a wonderful passage in Kuyper’s lecture on Calvinism and politics that gets at what political life might have looked like without sin and the resulting need for coercive restraint: “Had sin not intervened…as a disintegrating force, had not divided humanity into different sections, nothing would have marred or broken the organic unity of our race.” Only in such a case “would the organic unity of our race be realized politically,” in which “one State could embrace all the world.”

But, in fact, sin has intervened, and therefore, as I point out in today’s commentary, “law and legal constraint protect true liberty, and prevent our earthly existence from degenerating into a hellish existence, a libertinism in which our anti-social desires are given full rein.”

And for another worthwhile discussion on “what kind of corporeal or political life men would have professed in the state of innocence,” check out the latest scholia translation and introduction of a text by Francisco Suárez in the latest issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality.