Acton University 2015 is about to get underway at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and our friend Al Kresta has already taken up residence on the gallery overlook level for his week of Kresta in the Afternoon remote broadcasts. His first guest from Acton University was our own Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, who sat down for a twenty minute discussion of Pope Francis, Laudeto Si, and the compatibility of capitalism with Christianity. The full interview is available via the audio player below.
Don’t let the dirty boots and the beat-up cowboy hat fool you: Joel Salatin is not your average farmer. While he is a farmer (he owns and operates Polyface Farm), he has a lot to say about how we produce, distribute and eat food in our nation, and how practices in the West negatively impact the developing world.
What each of these delegates said, each session I went to, was, “You Americans butt out. We don’t need your foreign aid. We can feed ourselves.” And they would list these wonderful, perennial nut-bearing trees and things that had now been cut down because of cheap, western-dumping, foreign aid into those cultures, which depressed the price of their locally-produced food, and eliminated the value.”
Culture has either an overly optimistic view of youth culture, or an overly dour and depressing one. However, neither view is entirely true, nor are such disparate opinions very helpful. The unavoidable truth is this: younger generations will have to bear increasingly more difficult levels of financial, and societal responsibility in the coming years. To put it mildly their future will not be an easy walk in the park.
However, in my experiences at Acton, I am witnessing a renaissance, a flowering of maturity in which young men and women are not waiting for someone to offer them a free hand-out, but rather are seeking a better version and a more compelling vision for their future. Certainly the root of this renaissance has been occurring over the past ten years with college students at Acton University, but the flowering I am talking about is happening amongst high school students.
In the spring of 2014, a group of students from West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids made an appointment to tour our offices and to learn more about Acton’s work. After the tour, I expected the students to simply say, “thank you” and then depart, but the leader of this intrepid band said, “Mr. Cook, we have a core group that are serious about our Christian faith, and we want to be successful, ethical and virtuous business leaders. We want to learn how we can live our faith as Christian business leaders in our world today.” Then he said something really amazing.
“Do you think it’s possible for us to start an ‘Acton Club’ in our high school?’
It’s always good to welcome old friends to the Acton Building. Last week it was our pleasure to welcome Jeffrey Tucker, author, speaker, and the founder and Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me to Grand Rapids in order to deliver the first Acton Lecture Series lecture of 2015, entitled “Capitalism is About Love.” (We’ll be posting audio and video of his address later this week.)
Jeffrey took some time to join me in the Acton Studios to talk about the premise of his lecture, and about his take on the state of the world as we head into 2015. You can listen to the latest edition of Radio Free Acton featuring my interview with Jeffrey Tucker via the audio player below.
In its eighth annual survey, the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania put the Acton Institute among the top organizations in social policy, advocacy, conferences and overall excellence. The 2014 Global Go-To Think Tank Index published by the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program, which has a database of more than 6,500 organizations, ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories and across a wide political spectrum. The rankings are compiled with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world.
Highlights from the 2014 report:
• Acton Institute 9th in the Top Social Policy Think Tanks (11th in 2013)
• Acton Institute 29th in Top Think Tanks in the United States (34th in 2013)
• 11th in Best Advocacy Campaign (10th in 2013) for PoveryCure.org
• 17th in Best Think Tank Conference (17th in 2013) for Acton University
In its new report, the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program noted that although the raw number of think tanks around the world has declined slightly, think tanks “continue to expand their role and influence in countries around the world.” The need for think tanks as key players for a flourishing civil society remains strong:
Across both developed and developing countries, governments and individual policymakers face the common problem of bringing expert knowledge to bear in government decision-making. Policymakers need reliable, accessible, and useful information about the societies they govern. They also need to know how current policies are working, as well as possible alternatives and their likely costs and consequences. Although this need has long been an inherent dynamic of the policymaking process, the forces of globalization have accelerated the growth of independent think tanks given their unique ability to strengthen the research-policy bridge and increase the quality and effectiveness of policymaking. This expanding need has fostered the growth of independent public policy research organizations in 182 countries around the world.
Even as the scope and impact of think tanks’ work have expanded, their potential to support and sustain democratic governments and civil societies is far from exhausted. The challenge for the new millennium is to harness the vast reservoir of knowledge, information, and associational energy that exist in public policy research organizations to support self-sustaining economic, social, and political progress.
Today at Ethika Politika, I examine some ancient economic wisdom from one of the desert fathers: Abba Pistamon. Far from the newest of Nintendo’s Pokemon monsters (despite the sound of his name), Abba Pistamon was one of the first Christian monks. The dialogue between him and an unnamed brother that I examine from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers has a lot to say about production, labor, profit, and exchange.
Far from a gnostic allergy to any involvement with the material world, Abba Pistamon acknowledges the good of production and exchange, appealing to past precedent of other revered monks before him (“Abba Sisois and others”). Commerce, he says, was common. In fact, according to the size and expansive enterprise of ancient monastic communities, we can say that his assessment is more than anecdotal. In ancient Christian sources, contempt for the merchant and trader is common, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes traders and merchants went by a more respectable name: monks. We should not be surprised, then, that Abba Pistamon displays a certain natural business sense. But he does not stop at the merely economic aspects of production and exchange.
Recently, Acton President and Co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico spoke with Joe Wooddell, professor of philosophy and vice president for academic affairs at Criswell College. They discuss the concept of classic liberalism, Lord Acton, the Institute, and what led to the creation of Acton’s largest event of the year, Acton University.
If you’re new to Acton or want to learn more about Acton University, this is certainly a helpful resource. Registration for Acton University 2015 opens on Monday, November 17.