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Category: General

Samuel Gregg, Research Director for Acton Institute, recently published an article titled “Catholicism and Global Institutions: It’s Time for a Rethink” in The Catholic World Report which calls for the Catholic Church to reform its approach to supranational bodies, and think critically before engaging with issues raised by Brexit.

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Pope Francis visits the European Parliament in Strasbourg in November 2014 (AP)

Gregg shrewdly justifies his call for the Catholic Church to reform its treatment of political organizations. Gregg points out that many Catholics are increasingly suspicious about the Europeans Union’s growth of power and recognize that some United Nation agencies “directly violate Catholic teaching on human life”- and while this is true, he organizes additional points which strengthen his case.

Some of the most important factors which the Catholic Church should consider is first the lack of prioritizing decentralization among EU officials, and secondly the tendency of supranational institutions “not only to dilute national sovereignty but even national identity” through Kantian institutional internationalism. Lastly, Gregg explains that even if the Kantian liberalism were taken out of supranational bodies, the EU has only shown signs to approach change by implementing ‘top-down’ centralization. (more…)

The founding fathers possessed a vision of liberty illumined by philosophy and religion. In order to best understand their vision, it is wise to investigate which writers and thinkers inspired John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and especially Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the constitution.weal_06_img1219

John Locke, philosopher and physician, anonymously published his book on political philosophy, Two Treatises of Government in 1689. It is indisputable that the United States constitution was largely influenced by Locke’s work. Jefferson wrote later, “Neither aiming at originality or principles or sentiments, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American Mind.” While the constitution is not explicitly drawn from any one work, it was the culmination of much influential political thought and philosophy. J.W. Peltason states in his book Understanding the Constitution, that Locke’s Two Treatises of Government “was thought to be an authoritative pronouncement of established principles. Locke’s ideas provided ready arguments for the American cause, and they were especially embarrassing to an English government whose own source of authority was based on them.” (more…)

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Erhard, Ludwig Ludwig Erhard, 1962. UPI—Bettmann/Corbis

While some may find Socialism inviting on the surface, history tells us that it leads to “chaos.” Research Director for Acton Institute, Samuel Gregg, wrote a recent piece for The Stream in which he reveals the reality behind an ideology now gaining popularity. Gregg explains how we can learn both from West Germany’s mistakes and fruitful embrace of free markets.

Amid the havoc wreaked by National Socialism during WWII, there survived a small group of German economists who propelled a vision contrary to Hitler’s socialism. This group included Wilhelm Röpke, Walter Eucken and Franz Böhm. Thanks to the influence of their writings, Ludwig Erhard (“appointed director of economics in 1948 for the zones administered by America and Britain”) championed a “stable currency and free prices.” Nazi holds on economy in West Germany collapsed, and as a result, Germany continues to reap the benefits today. (more…)

C.S. Lewis is perhaps best known for his work in children’s literature and Christian apologetics. “Mere Christianity”, “The Problem of Pain and “The Abolition of Man are among his most popular works, and yet he has many more valuable essays regarding truth and Christianity which are not as widely read. A favorite lecture of mine, titled “The Poison of Subjectivism”, can be found in his collected essays, “Christian Reflections”.

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C.S. Lewis broke new ground in 1950 with his fantasy series “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Photo by John Chillingworth/Picture Post/Getty Images

After leaving Malvern College in June 1913, Lewis (or Jack as he preferred to be called) traveled to Great Bookham Surrey where he studied under a former tutor of his father’s, W.T. Kirkpatrick (who later served as the inspiration for Professor Digory Kirke in “The Chronicles of Narnia”). Kirkpatrick was the former headmaster of Lurgan College and drilled into Lewis an understanding of and appreciation for the reasoning and logic which continued to serve Lewis throughout his career. Lewis was given a scholarship to attend University College, Oxford in 1916 and later went on to become an Oxford don where he gave other such lectures on philosophy and reasoning.

“The Poison of Subjectivism” addresses the root of humanist philosophies which have given way to encroachments in democracy-subjectivism. It is “out of this apparently innocent idea” that men propose to have developed a better and more modern morality, claiming to have paved the way to Utopia. Research Director for the Acton Institute, Samuel Gregg, explained succinctly in his course on Christian Anthropology at Acton University earlier this month the danger in believing man can shape perfect order on earth: “Human nature is flawed: there is a radical disorder that runs through the core of every person’s existence. This has immense implications for the social order. It rules out utopian-ism and produces the attitu (more…)

Over the past decade media coverage of the problems surrounding indigent defense has been increasing. For example, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently suing the state of Utah for failing to uphold that 6th Amendment which now provides opportunities for government provided criminal defense. The ACLU is claiming that Utah fell short of its obligation to provide attorneys to criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire one. While the merits of the case have yet to be properly sorted out, what is true is that public defenders offices are under much needed scrutiny.

With the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright decision back in 2013 a flurry of articles were published that highlighted some of the injustices in the public defense system that the Gideon verdict created. The Gideon verdict required states to provide defense attorneys, especially for the poor.

In 2013, a New York Times article by Lincoln Caplan on the anniversary of the Gideon decision summarized several of current problems around the United States regarding public defense. The article highlighted the problems with meeting the requirements of Gideon at the state level where 95 percent of America’s criminal trials take place. The best programs in the United States still struggle to meet the high number of cases that require public defenders. Caplan’s article highlights the Miami public defender’s office which handles far above the American Bar Association’s recommendation of 150 cases per year for a attorney. The demand in Miami has reached 500 cases a year, and has far outpaced the funding for indigent defense. The important distinction the author makes in this article is that not only is financing of public defense an issue, but the general attitude towards the poor the system has created. It is an attitude that Caplan and others describe as “contempt.” (more…)

public+defenderSince the landmark Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) every state has developed a system of public defense. The decision guaranteed that those accused of felony offenses are entitled to a lawyer under the rights outlined in the 6th Amendment, which include, the right to a jury trial, a public trial, and pertaining to Gideon, “to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” In the wake of the Gideon decision each state was required to develop a system of public defenders to represent those who did not have a legal counsel, and especially those who could not afford a lawyer. Because of low funding for public defense, and the increasing number of cases filling courtrooms, more states are requiring defendants to pay a fee for their assigned defender—whether they are found guilty or not.

An April 2016 New York Times article Fordham University Law professor John Pfaff, highlights more weaknesses in the public defense world and in the odd funding mechanism. Forty-three states now require defendants to pay for a public defender, even though the only reason they have a public defender in the first place is because they cannot afford a lawyer. The Times article highlights the current policy in South Dakota where a defendant is required to pay $92 dollars an hour regardless of the verdict. The result of this policy is that the defendant might have to pay hundreds of dollars a day to be proven innocent for a crime for which he or she was mistakenly arrested.
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As the author of a book titled The Roots of Coincidence, Arthur Koestler would appreciate the coinky dinks of the past week. First, I finished re-reading Koestler’s two nonfiction works of 20th century European madness, Dialogue with Death and Scum of the Earth. One details the author’s imprisonment by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and the other covers his incarceration by the French in the first months of World War II – and both are harrowing.

Second, last week I viewed Trumbo, Spartacus, and the Coen brothers’ latest cinematic opus, Hail, Caesar! Trumbois another Hollywood tale of how the Second Red Scare oppressed the creative caste of Tinsel Town, violated their First Amendment rights and ruined lives of people inherently better than you and I because of their entertainment industry connections or something. The title character of Trumbo was resurrected from Red-baiting ignominy by a screenwriting credit on the Stanley Kubrick sword-and-sandal epic Spartacus, which aired last week on Turner Classic Movies. Hail, Caesar! includes a subplot about bumbling communists in the final days of the Hollywood studio system. Oh, and back to Koestler: His first novel was 1939’s The Gladiators, which also told of the Roman slave revolt led by – readers already are way ahead of me here – Spartacus.

It’s been one of those weeks!

Let’s unpack this, shall we? Koestler noted in the 1965 reissue of The Gladiators that (more…)