Category: Individual Liberty

Larry Schweikart

This edition of Radio Free Acton features an interview with Larry Schweikart – drummer, history professor, and producer of the documentary “Rockin’ The Wall” – on the power of music and the influence of rock and roll in undermining communism in the Soviet empire. When we think about the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s only natural that names like Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II come to mind, but there were other elements involved in the battle against communism that also played important roles in its downfall, including cultural influences. How did western rock and pop music help to undermine Soviet Communism? Schweikart, former drummer for Rampage, explains how it happened.

prison reformThe numbers are discouraging: 1 in 28 American children has at least one parent in prison. Even though crime rates have dropped, our prison population has quadrupled; there are now about 2.4 million adults behind bars. It is costing us $80 billion a year to maintain our prison system. At one point, society thought that prison was about reform. We’ve all but dropped any pretense of reform; we’re just warehousing people.

Can we fix this?

One organization is trying. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) would like to see changes in harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws, many of which involve drug cases.

In 1990, Julie Stewart was public affairs director at the Cato Institute when she first learned of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Her brother had been arrested for growing marijuana in Washington State, had pled guilty, and — though this was his first offense — had been sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole. The judge criticized the punishment as too harsh, but the mandatory minimum law left him no choice.

Motivated by her own family’s experience, Julie created Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) in 1991. Though her brother has long since left prison, has a beautiful family and a good job, Julie continues to lead FAMM in the fight for punishments that fit the crime and the offender.

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globalslaveryindexThere are 35.8 million people living in some form of modern slavery, claims the Global Slavery Index. The Index is a report produced by the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organization dedicated to ending modern slavery.

This year’s Index estimates the number of people in modern slavery in 167 countries, and includes an analysis of what governments are doing to eradicate the this form of human suffering.

According to the Index, of those living in modern slavery 61 percent are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.

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LBJ’s so-called “war on poverty” kicked off a trajectory of public policy that has shown a remarkable tendency to create more of the same — affirming cycles of dependency, disintegrating relational capital, and over-elevating material tinkering to the detriment of the permanent things.

Yet somehow the prevailing narrative still holds that those same sickly policies are the best we can hope for, and anyone who disagrees is an enemy of the poor. If money shall be transferred from Person X to Person Y and the label on the packaging reads “anti-poverty!”, what else is there to discuss?

In a recent interview with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts assumes the common prejudice (4:11):

Roberts begins by pointing to a series of progressive measures that Scott has opposed in the past, proceeding to ask, quite presumptuously, “How do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower income families and kids?” One can only be concerned for the poor if they subscribe to the very policies that have failed them, apparently. (more…)

We’ve developed a bit of a backlog of audio to release over the course of the summer and fall, so today we begin the process of shortening that list by sharing some recent lectures from the 2014 Acton Lecture Series with you.

On August 26, Acton was pleased to welcome Ron Blue to Grand Rapids for an address entitled “Persistent Generosity.” Ron has spent almost 50 years in the financial services world and the last 35 working almost exclusively with Christian couples. What he has observed is that those who are long term consistent in their generosity exhibit three characteristics that have nothing to do with money: they are content, confident, and able to communicate with each other, their children, and advisors if they use them. In this address, Ron shares his personal experience and impressions drawn from 50 years in the financial sector, gives unique financial advice from a faith-based perspective, and shares the two questions that must be answered and one decision that must be made in order to exhibit the characteristics of persistently generous people.

On October 2, we welcomed Gerard Lameiro to the Mark Murray Auditorium to address an audience on the topic of “Renewing America and Its Heritage of Freedom: What Freedom-Loving Americans Can Do to Help.” In his address, Lameiro commented on what freedom is and what it is not, and then walked through a substantial, solid, and moral case for freedom, acknowledging that God is the author of all liberty and that truth, human dignity, and morality are inextricably linked to freedom. You can find more information on Lameiro and pick up a copy of his latest book (which shares the title of his lecture) at his website, and you can listen to him on the Radio Free Acton podcast right here.

Dr. Gerard Lameiro speaks at the 2014 Acton Lecture Series

Gerard Lameiro speaks at the 2014 Acton Lecture Series

Earlier this month, Acton welcomed Gerard Lameiro to the Mark Murray Auditorium to deliver a lecture as part of the fall 2014 Acton Lecture Series. He spoke on the topic of “Renewing America and Its Heritage of Freedom,” which also happens to be the title of his latest book. Following his lecture, I sat down with Lameiro to discuss his thoughts on the gradual loss of freedom we’ve experienced in the United States, and his plan for what average Americans can do to reclaim what has been lost. We’ll be posting the audio of his lecture soon; you can listen to the Radio Free Acton podcast with Gerard Lameiro via the audio player below.

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…)