Category: Individual Liberty

Blog author: abradley
Thursday, December 29, 2016
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On December 27, 2016, at the age of 86, Thomas Sowell published his last column. After publishing dozens of books and hundreds of columns, Dr. Sowell’s retirement may mark the beginning of the end of an era of black intellectuals who were champions of political and economic liberty. Other black scholars like Walter Williams, W.B. Allen, and Shelby Steele are all in the 70s or 80s and there does not seem to be a cadre of like-minded black scholars in their wake.
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kuyper-2-pro-rege“A human kingship imperceptibly came to power, leaving no place for the kingship of Christ.” –Abraham Kuyper

The West prides itself on valuing freedom – political, economic, religious, and otherwise. For some, this leads to the promotion of a certain brand of libertinism: the freedom to do what we want. For others, such as Lord Acton, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

For the Christian in particular, true freedom is more than a little paradoxical, involving plenty of constraints and restraints. We know that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” and yet, in keeping with the upside-down economics of the Gospel – “the first shall be last,” “those who lose their life will find it” – it comes with prepackaged with calls to servanthood and obedience. These are good hints that true freedom may have less to do with nitpicking over “choice” and “constraint” and more to do with accurately recognizing the image of God we bear and the responsibility it entails.

In seasons of pain and frustration, the notion tends to feel more clear and less paradoxical, of course. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,” the Psalmist sings. “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

This is the sound of freedom through dependence, and it’s one that Christians are well familiar with. But it’s a song we also tend to forget and neglect. (more…)

Today at The Federalist, Acton associate editor Sarah Stanley penned an article profiling an artist from North Korea who goes by the name of Sun Mu. This profile is inspired by a recent documentary that highlights the life of the artist. Sun Mu defected from the oppressive state in the late 1990s and since then has been creating art that depicts the story of his life in North Korea.  In order to protect his family, Sun Mu can’t use his real name.  Stanley explains:

The most extraordinary thing about him is that the audience for his art mostly doesn’t know what he looks like, or what his real name is. Sun Mu still has family in North Korea, so he never shows his face in public. His real identity is a closely guarded secret. He insists hiding in plain sight is not a form of thrill-seeking. He puts himself in real danger simply because he was “destined” to become Sun Mu (a phrase meaning “no boundaries”).

When Sun Mu first defected from North Korea he made his way to China where he was first exposed to a society other than the tyrannical state of his home country. Stanley explains his experience:

The most surprising thing he noticed when he arrived in China was the lights. “The glittering lights,” Sun Mu says. “Plastic bags blowing in the winds. Is this rotten capitalism? Is this the rotten capitalism the North has been talking about? Why are so many lights on?” He even began to wonder if he was hallucinating. There couldn’t be that many working lights glittering all over. For at least a decade after he defected, he continued to believe the lies perpetuated by Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong Il, propaganda that said capitalism made other countries worse.

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school-deskThe current problems with the school-to-prison pipeline often start with poor school discipline policies. Various school discipline policies and tactics have recently come under criticism for being overly harsh—often causing students to drop out of school. The frequent use of suspension and expulsion for minor offenses has become commonplace in many schools across the country.

Over the summer Gina Raimondo, the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, signed a bill into law making it harder for schools to suspend students for minor infractions. The law creates stricter guidelines for when students can be sent home from school in order to lower the number of suspensions. High suspension rates are just one of the contributing factors to the school-to-prison pipeline. A Febuary 2015 study by The Center for Civil Rights Remedies looked at some of the contributing factors to the problem and how the policies affect different parts of the population.

Data cited in the report found that most suspensions occur in secondary school and are rarely used in younger grades. Students who had a disability were suspended twice as much as non-disabled students in the 2009-10 school year. One out of 3 students with an emotional disturbance were suspended.
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malthus-glasses1The doom delusions of central planners and population “experts” are well documented and refuted, ranging from the early pessimism of the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus to the more fanatical predictions of Paul Ehrlich.

Through these lenses, population growth is a driver of poverty, following from a framing of the human person as a strain and a drain on society and the environment. As Michael Mattheson Miller has written, such thinking suffers from a zero-sum mindset wherein the economy (or any web of human relationships) is a fixed pie “with only so much to go around.” “But the economy is not a pie,” he explains, “Economies can grow, and population growth can actually help development. A growing population means more labor, which along with land and capital are the main factors of production.”

Yet even still, despite the range of agricultural and technological innovations, and the worldwide evidence of booming prosperity in highly populated areas like Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, the Malthusians of yesteryear are connecting their cramped imaginations to present-day concerns.

In an article at National Review, Kevin Williamson identifies this wrinkle, noting that the “new new Malthusians” are worried less about human impacts on natural resources and instead worry about the human costs of our own unbounded ingenuity: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 8, 2016
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rationalityAre people smart enough to run their own lives? Probably not. Are other people smart enough to direct everyone else’s lives? Definitely not.

So if no one is smart enough, what then can we do?

“Individually, we may not know much,” says Steven Horwitz, “but together, with the right institutions, we can learn from each other and, collectively, know a lot.”

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Photo courtesy of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

Photo courtesy of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

As we approach what would be Milton Friedman’s 104th birthday this Sunday, July 31st, we should note the enduring significance of his evaluation of the connection between economic and political freedom. In his popular work, Capitalism and Freedom, in a chapter titled “The Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom,” Friedman explains how a society cannot have the latter without the former.

Friedman criticizes the notion that politics and economics can be regarded separately and that any combination of political and economic system is possible. He calls the view “a delusion,” holding that there is “an intimate connection between economics and politics.” Though Friedman concedes the possibility of an economically free and politically repressed society, the opposite, he claims, is impossible. Political freedom, both historically and logically, is inseparable from economic freedom.

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