Category: Individual Liberty

Liggio

Liggio

Almost 20 years ago I was invited to speak at the celebratory banquet for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (now Atlas Network) and the Institute for Humane Studies, then celebrating their 15th and 35th anniversaries respectively. I was an alumnus of both and six years into the launch of the Acton Institute (founded in 1990). Both organizations considered me “successful enough” to reflect at the banquet on how each had influenced my life.

It was an undeserved honor, of course, but such was my gratitude to these institutions, that I accepted. The room was full of luminaries of the free market movement, and I was very conscious that Acton’s work was launched from the shoulders of intellectual giants.

One such giant there in the room that night, was Leonard Liggio, who died this past Tuesday at the age of 81. In reflecting on my sadness at his passing this week, I thought I would share my public comments I made about Leonard that evening 19 years ago:

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that it was none other than the great connector himself, Leonard Liggio, who really brought me into the free market fold. He wasn’t the first to introduce me to classical liberalism—that was Robert Sirico, who at the time was not yet ordained and was only an expectant father. But it was Sirico who introduced me to Leonard and the rest is history. If I’m not mistaken, we first met the night of January 16, 1986. That date wasn’t coincidental, Leonard and I were introduced at a private showing of an uncut, unedited 3.5 hour Italian version of Ayn Rand’s We the Living which had just surfaced more than forty years after Mussolini had ordered it destroyed. (more…)

purple penguinIn 1994, a clever man named James Finn Garner published Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. Garner did fabulous send-ups of familiar stories, with a twist: all of them were carefully constructed so as to offend NO ONE:

There once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water to her grandmother’s house—not because this was womyn’s work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult. (more…)

Maslow_plus_wifiWhen you think about basic human rights, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The right to life? The right to liberty? The right to WiFi?

If that last one wasn’t on your list it may be a sign that you’re old. As Maryland governor Martin O’Malley recently told CNN, young people today believe that “WiFi is a human right.” O’Malley apparently agrees, adding that, “There is an opportunity there for us as a nation to embrace that new perspective.”

While I’ll concede that WiFi may be a basic human need (it’s certainly on the list of my own hierarchy of needs), it’s hard to see why it would be a human right. A human right is generally considered a right that is inalienable and fundamental and to which a person is inherently entitled simply because they are a human being. Are we really entitled to WiFi simply because we’re human?

While it’s easy to mock O’Malley’s claim, it does raise the question of just what exactly does qualify as a human right.

In a world where few people can agree on anything, it’s not surprising that there is no clear consensus on what constitutes a human right. About the closest the world has ever come to unanimity on the issue is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Below I’ve individually broken out each of the rights listed by the UN as fundamental to all humanity. Before looking at the list, though, take a guess at how many of rights you expect to see on the list.

According to the UDHR, all humans have the right,
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IRAQ-UNREST-RELIGION-CHRISTIANSThis past Sunday, for the first time in 2,000 years, no Christians received Holy Communion in Nineveh. The Islamic militants have eradicated the Christian population in the northern Iraqi city. The few Christians that remain are either too old or sick to escape.

Canon Andrew White, Anglican vicar of Baghdad, told The Telegraph that churches have been turned into offices for the Islamic militants, crosses removed. No Christians, he says, want to be there. (more…)

museum of the bibleDetails have been released surrounding the launch of a new Bible museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C., a project founded and funded by David Green, president of arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby.

Museum of the Bible will open in 2017, displaying artifacts from the Green Collection, “one of the world’s largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts,” along with other antiquities, replicas, and various exhibits.

“Washington, D.C., is the museum capital of the world,” says Green, “So, it’s only fitting that our board selected Washington as the home for this international museum. We invite everyone—adults and children, the intellectually curious and most seasoned of scholars alike—to Museum of the Bible to explore the most important and influential book ever written.”

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logoAmericans in the 21st century are living through a period of rapid social and economic change, says Peter Augustine Lawler and Richard Reinsch, and our established ways of thinking about public questions have not been serving us well. The changes are forcing us to ask what it means to be a free person in a free society.

But how do we answer that question without resorting to radical individualism?

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The Cato Institute, as part of this year’s recognition of Constitution Day, offers a series of videos featuring prominent scholars, educators and entrepreneurs answering the question, “Why Liberty?” Each has a different and personal perspective on the meaning and importance of liberty, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Below, the Rev. Robert Sirico offers his answer to the question, “Why Liberty?”

One of the most profound ironies in our current debates over religious liberty is the Left’s persistent decrying of business as short-sighted and materialistic even as it attempts to prevent the Hobby Lobbys of the world from heeding their consciences and convictions.

Business is about far more than some materialistic bottom line, but this is precisely why we need the protection for religious liberty. If we fail to promote religious liberty for businesses, how can we ever expect the marketplace to contribute to widespread human flourishing — economic, social, spiritual, and otherwise?

In a marvelous talk at AEI’s recent Evangelical Leadership Summit, hosted by Values and Capitalism, Dr. Russell Moore points to precisely this, arguing that we need to cultivate churches, businesses, institutions, and governments whose consciences “are not so malleable that they can be directed simply by the whims of the marketplace or…by government edict.”

Watch the full thing here, which is followed by other insightful speakers, including Brian Grim, whose research on business and religious liberty aptly complements Moore’s thoughts.

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Cross in Memory of Lithuanian Deportees.

Cross in Memory of Lithuanian Deportees.

Recently I read Leave Your Tears in Moscow, a harrowing and ultimately triumphant account of Barbara Armonas’s time in a Soviet Siberian prison camp. Armonas, who passed away at the age of 99 in 2008, was separated from her American husband and daughter in Lithuania at the outbreak of World War II. Her husband John Armonas and daughter, both born in the United States, fled Lithuania. Barbara and her son John Jr. stayed behind. Although Barbara had lived for a time in Cleveland with her husband, she was not yet an American citizen. The thinking was if her son remained with her, reunification of the family would be easier in a few months.

The News Herald in Ohio has an excellent profile of their story published in 2009. Armonas and her son were part of the Lithuanian deportations by the Soviet Union, at least 70 percent of the deported Lithuanians were women and children. In a farce trial, Armonas was eventually convicted of espionage and sentenced to the maximum 25 years in Soviet labor camps. Armonas, who was not political, published a damning account of collectivism and the socialist Soviet state in Leave Your Tears in Moscow. During Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to the United States in 1959, Armonas’s daughter Donna pleaded to the Soviet Premier for the release of her mother. The encounter gained worldwide attention and eventually led to the release of Armonas and her son to reunite with their family in America. They had been separated for 20 years.

The book, published in 1961, raised awareness of the plight of Lithuanians under Soviet occupation. Below are a few quotes and excerpts from her memoir:
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First-Amendment-Area-490x653The great British statesman Edmund Burke claimed that “to love the little platoon we belong to in society is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.” Burke was referring to the mediating social institutions that that lie between the individual and the state. These “little platoons” include not only the family but our churches, labor unions, charity organizations, and other voluntary associations.

Since the dawn of modernity, intellectuals and politicians have been hostile to mediating structures since they put barriers between the individual and the State. As Brad Lowell Stone has noted, “Hobbes, Rousseau, and Bentham each envisioned an ideal condition in which the state guards the rights and fulfills the needs of unencumbered, desocialized individuals.”

Along with Hobbes, Rousseau, and Bentham we can add Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). Sen. Udall is the sponsor of a resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would limit the power and influence of certain mediating structures by ending the First Amendment protections of political speech.

The second of the proposed amendment’s three sections reads:

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