In this week’s commentary I argue that “Do They Even Know It’s Christmas?” is the worst Christmas song of all time.
To provide a synthesis of Pope Francis’s thinking on the economy is both difficult and easy, says Oskari Juurikkala in this week’s Acton Commentary. “It is difficult, because he has never offered extensive and systematic reflections on such questions; his pronouncements are found here and there, inseparable from a broader moral and spiritual message.”
At the same time, he has said quite a few things about economic questions, and he is deeply interested in economic values and outcomes. Of course, he views them not as isolated technical questions, but as something that also touches upon a Christian pastor of souls. That is what makes my task relatively easy.
Francis’s thinking can only be understood within the context of his moral and spiritual principles. These, in turn, are inseparable from his simple and straightforward personality. I will leave it to others to study specific texts in detail; I will simply summarize the Pope’s message around the notion of Christian poverty. Perhaps we could almost say that Francis is a prophet of Christian poverty, and his papal name is no accident in this respect.
“The Tesla Model S is a drop-dead gorgeous electric automobile that can go from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds and carries a sticker price of $80,000 at the high end,” says Sarah Stanley in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Tesla is also at the center of a debate on cronyism, consumer choice, and innovation”
On October 21, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan signed Enrolled House Bill 5606 into law. Some have rightly nicknamed this the “anti-Tesla bill.” While direct sales from manufacturers to consumers were already illegal under Michigan law (there are six states where Tesla showrooms are illegal), this bill simply loosened the language—making it clear that manufacturers who do not have their own dealers may sell cars through another manufacturer’s dealer networks. Literally, the bill deleted one word from the law. Immediately after signing this bill and siding with auto dealers, Snyder said “the discussion should consider, first and foremost, what is best for Michigan consumers, for expanding economic activity, and for innovation in our state.”
What is the connection between private property and conscience rights? “If there is no private property,” says Michael Novak in this week’s Acton Commentary, “there is also no independent leg to stand on in speaking for one’s conscience — and not only one’s individual conscience.”
In Poland and elsewhere, religious communities had inspired and led the nations for hundreds of years. In such places, people were not imprisoned solely in their own individual power, which was little. Sometimes they acted through institutions and associations of their own choosing. Solidarity in Poland, for example, or People Against Violence in Slovakia.
Sometimes they acted through associations and institutions they had been born into, and long been become grateful for. They knew by family history the many ways in which these institutions had nourished, taught, and trained them in the habits of conscience, self-government, and personal responsibility. These institutions had for centuries stood outside the passing follies of the age, and had been the people’s source of independence from the self-centered, decadent, and at times even thuggish “wisdom” of their particular generation.
Wasn’t toil introduced into human labor as a punishment from God? Yes and no, says Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary.
Our life is plagued by imperfection and the tragedy of our mortality, but nevertheless God says to Adam, “you shall eat,” that is, “you shall have the means to sustain your life.” Work ought not to be so toilsome — toil, in that sense, is a bad thing — but given that our lives are characterized by sin, sometimes we actually need toil. Sometimes the curse is also grace.
In this week’s Acton Commentary, “The Soul of the System,” I examine a number of images and distinctions related to Hunter Baker’s latest book, The System Has a Soul. In describing Herman Bavinck’s images of the kingdom of God as a pearl and a leaven, and a complementary distinction from Abraham Kuyper of the church as an institute and an organism, a question naturally follows about the relationship between each element of the pairings.
Scottishness and Presbyterianism were once synonymous –- and with it reverence for the Union with England, says Ewan Watt in this week’s Acton Commentary. But secularism and nationalism might change all that.
Before he was arrested and ultimately burnt at the stake, the great Presbyterian martyr George Wishart dissuaded his young disciple John Knox from following him to martyrdom with the famous words, “Nay, return to your bairns and God bless you. One is sufficient for a sacrifice.”
Four hundred and sixty-eight years since Wishart was murdered at St. Andrew’s, his native Scotland came closer than expected to seceding from the United Kingdom and becoming an independent country. Although Scotland was a sovereign nation throughout his lifetime, one could make the argument that it’s been the Union with England that has helped cement Wishart and Knox’s greatest legacy, the Reformation and creation of the Church of Scotland. The Kirk’s future was also one of the more silent – but deeply contentious – issues throughout the independence campaign.
Cooperation and creativity are essential for both a well-functioning market and the celebration of the Eucharist, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary.
As he has done in the past, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his encyclical for the beginning of the Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical year (September 1) meditates on “the ongoing and daily destruction of the natural environment.” Environmental damage is the poisoned fruit of “human greed” and the pursuit of “vain profit,” the patriarch writes. Given our place in creation, human sinfulness results in not only a dissonance within the human heart but also a “turbulence in nature,” fracturing as it does nature’s “crown, namely human existence.” Fallen out of love with God, Bartholomew continues, human existence is fractured, our physical survival is threatened. So profound is our estrangement from nature and nature’s God, that we risk His “imminent wrath.”
In this week’s Acton Commentary Hunter Baker wonders why are so-called progressives eager to use political power to “correct” the thinking of those they disagree with:
You may not have realized it, but Tony Dungy is a heretic. Does the former football player, coach and now TV analyst hold beliefs that are considered heretical by his fellow Christians? No. But his recent doubts about Michael Sam as an NFL player (you’ll recall Sam as the All American college athlete who has publicly announced that he’s gay), caused Dungy to be viewed as a heretic by members of another sect that is gaining adherents at a rapid pace. They are more sure of themselves than ever. Where once they pleaded for tolerance, now they sense that they are gaining the upper hand. “There can be no tolerance for ideas that are wrong,” they explain.And they are thinking it might be time to exercise new power.
Christian churches in the West have been focused on redistribution of income rather than the creation of wealth, says Brian Griffiths in this week’s Acton Commentary.
Through much of the post-war period in the West, the formation of economic policy was dominated by Keynesian activism on the part of governments seeking an increasing role in providing public services, reducing material poverty, and reshaping income redistribution.
In the United States, President John F. Kennedy launched the New Frontier program and his successor, President Lyndon Johnson, soon after embarked on what came to be called the Great Society. In both cases, emphasis was placed on increasing the role of the state in order to solve problems of poverty and destitution. In intellectual terms, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith made the case for trade unions and government becoming “countervailing powers” in capitalist economies in order to check the power of large corporations. In Britain, Harold Wilson nationalized various industries, developed a national plan, a comprehensive prices and incomes policy, and extended the scope of the welfare state. Across the Channel and Rhine, the Social Democrat Willy Brandt was a major influence in extending the role of government in social policy throughout West Germany.