Category: News and Events

June 17, 1996

Rev. Robert A. Sirico & Justice Scalia – June 17, 1996

Over the weekend, we were saddened to hear of the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a giant of conservative jurisprudence, stalwart champion of originalist interpretation, and as such a true friend of the Constitution.

He was also a friend of the Acton Institute, and we are proud to share the address he delivered on June 17, 1997 at the Acton Institute’s Seventh Anniversary Dinner in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He titled his remarks “On Interpreting the Constitution,” and in them he explained his originalist approach to Constitutional law, and the severe drawbacks that he saw with any alternative method of interpretation. He described himself thusly:

I am one of a small but hardy breed of interpretists left in the world who are called “textualists,” or “originalists”… People ask me, “when did you become a textualist? What caused you to become a textualist?” You know, sort of like “when did you begin eating human beings?” As though it’s some weird thing, you know? I mean, I—when did you begin to become not a textualist? You know, you have a text, you should read the text! …I’m not kidding, I’m always baffled at the amazement of these people – “well, what a novel idea! You’re a textualist!”

I treat the Constitution the way laws, statutes have always been treated – we try to figure out what it meant when it was adopted.

Scalia’s pointed and witty observations reveal a man with a brilliant legal mind coupled with a wonderful sense of humor, and the arguments that he laid out in 1997 are just as relevant today, if not more so. During his address, he expressed a sense of pessimism about the state of the American legal culture and jurisprudence; but if he was a pessimist, he was surely a very jovial pessimist. His wisdom, his wit, and his steady presence on the Supreme Court will be deeply missed. We have remastered the audio of his 1997 remarks, and present them via the audio player below.

Blog author: sstanley
Monday, February 15, 2016
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“Donald Trump” Greg Allen/ Invision/ AP

Being “pro business” doesn’t necessarily mean “pro free markets.” Reality TV star and wannabe Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump reminds us of this. Writing for The Stream, Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, argues that not only does Trump seem to be a mercantilist, but, if implemented, this medieval economic system would weaken the United States.

What exactly is mercantilism? This system was popular between the 1500s and 1700s and was particularly good to government officials and their allies in the business world. Gregg explains:

At the core of mercantilism were two things. The first was cozy relationships between certain business leaders and the government. The second was the extensive use of tariffs, quotas and even bans on certain imports to protect domestic manufacturers. Mercantilists wanted to limit competition (particularly from foreigners) rather than embrace competition as a discipline that helped companies and countries discover and develop what they did best in terms of low-costs and high-returns relative to everyone else.

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Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia

One of the many great things about living in Europe is getting the chance to meet famous Americans visiting the Old Continent. They tend to be more relaxed and accessible than they ever would be in the United States, which means you may actually manage to have a pleasant conversation with them without others trying to jostle their way between you.

It’s an even bigger thrill when you talk with someone you truly admire, which was certainly the case when I met Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the annual Istituto Bruno Leoni lecture in Turin in 2013. My friends at IBL kindly invited me to the reception and dinner following the lecture, and there I was as the only other American chatting with Justice and Mrs. Scalia.

We talked about his old friend and poker buddy Walter Berns (whose health was ailing, he told me with real concern in his face and voice), the work of the Acton Institute in Rome, and “so-called” social justice, as he put it. I tried to get his views on St. Thomas Aquinas and natural law, but he somewhat facetiously said those were “above his pay grade.” (more…)

Mini grantAmerican and Canadian college faculty: Acton is accepting proposals for mini-grants on free market economics. If you’re a professor or you know of a professor teaching in the United States or Canada, be sure to visit the Mini-Grants page. The deadline to turn in proposals is March 31, 2016 and grants can range from $1,000 to $10,000. Acton is accepting applications for proposals in course development and faculty scholarship.

Interested in applying, but not sure how to get started? Here are some characteristics of a successful grant proposal:

  • Have a clearly defined topic that the project intends to address, and why this is of value to the teaching, scholarship and practice of free-market economics.
  • Have clearly defined objectives.
  • Have a well-defined project budget.
  • Demonstrate that the individual and/or team members have related experience, technical knowledge, scholarly and/or business community networks, and other appropriate resources (intellectual, social, financial) that will contribute to the success of the proposed project.
  • Demonstrate the potential to improve understanding of free market principles.
  • Illustrate how the results will be disseminated throughout the larger academy.

To apply, email your application materials to scholarships@acton.org. For more information and to see a list of previous grant winners, visit Acton’s Mini-Grants on Free Market Economics Page.

Download a fact sheet.

Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, February 4, 2016
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030620-N-7391W-007 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Jun. 20, 2003) -- Cashier Sue Amine assists a customer at the Pearl Harbor Commissary, run by Defense Commissary Agency's (DeCA), in the new Pearl Harbor mall complex, which opened earlier this year. The current commissary sales floor is 29 percent larger than previous commissaries, with wider aisles to maneuver shopping carts and numerous registers to speed up checkout. DeCA's $22.8 million share of the Pearl Harbor mall was funded with surcharge dollars. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Jim Williams. (RELEASED)

Trading $ for groceries > Murdering people and stealing their food

It’s been said before, but it’s certainly worth saying again. Not only does the free market lead to material wealth, but it reduces violence.

On a recent episode of the podcast “Question of the Day,” co-host Stephen Dubner reads a question from a listener: Why haven’t humans evolved as a species away from aggression? Dubner and James Altucher deal with the question in a rather roundabout way. Altucher points out that, really, aggression has dropped for as long as we’ve recorded the data. Specifically, the percentage of violent deaths keeps declining. “As a species, we have been evolving passed aggression and I think a lot of that has to do with trade,” He says. “All these methods of trade have actually limited aggression because I no longer need to invade your country to get your resources. We can trade resources instead. And then it benefits us to be nice to each other.” (more…)

 in-2016-region-map-web-world

The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal recently released the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom. Despite modest gains in economic freedom worldwide, Americans have, for the eighth time in a decade, lost economic freedom. The global average score is 60.7, “the highest recorded in the 22-year history of the Index” with more than thirty countries including Burma, Vietnam, Poland, and others, received “their highest-ever Index scores.” 74 countries’ ranks declined, but they improved for 97.

The least free countries included North Korea with an abysmal score of 2.3, Cuba (29.8), Venezuela (33.7), and Zimbabwe (38.2).

Index Co-editors, Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim, explain what the Index has proved in its two decades: (more…)

FITW_World_Map_nolabels_GF2016_FINAL_940pxA new report shows that global indicators of economic and political freedom declined overall in 2015, with the most serious setbacks in the area of freedom of speech and rule of law. Freedom House, an “independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world,” released its Freedom in the World 2016 Report which included some disturbing statistics and worldwide trends, particulary as it concerns the progress made by women in some regions.

The beginning of the report summarizes the situation:

The world was battered in 2015 by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. These unsettling developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. [emphasis added]

Key findings from the report: (more…)