Category: News and Events

Over on The Daily Caller, Jamie Weinstein has an interview with Rev. Robert A. Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, about his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy:

What is the moral case for capitalism?

The moral case for a free economy (I prefer this phrase over the word “capitalism” which is far too narrow and has Marxist roots) is to be found in human nature: the very reality that all people related to the natural world of scarce resources by the use of their minds to create things that were not in existence prior to human creativity. Men and women require freedom to express this productive creativity.

The sixteenth-century priest St. Francis de Sales, when called upon to give pastoral advice to Christians involved in trades and occupations, gave a different answer from what some might expect from a saint: “Have greater care than worldly men do to make your property profitable and fruitful . . . our possessions are not our own. God has given them to us to cultivate and he wants us to make them fruitful and profitable . . . therefore let us exercise this gracious care of preserving and even of increasing our temporal goods whenever just occasions present themselves.”

The system of profit and loss in a free economy can orient our behavioral compass toward activities that serve others, make good use of resources, and prepare us for the future. It doesn’t stop people from serving evil desires or eradicate original sin, but without the price signals in a free economy, our economic activities would be without order.

Read more . . .

As I noted yesterday, I’m in Montreal for the next couple of weeks, and today I had the chance to see some of the student protests firsthand. These protests have been going on now for over three months, and have to do with the raising of tuition for college in Quebec.

I’m teaching at Farel Reformed Theological Seminary, which is located in the heart of downtown Montreal, and is adjacent to Concordia University. As I walked around earlier this week, I noticed the following on one of Concordia’s buildings:

The Right to Education
The text is article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads in part, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.”

I think that the kinds of protests we are seeing in Quebec might be the inevitable end of the logic of the welfare state. The logic goes something like this:

Education is a right, and should be free, or the next best thing to it. In order for it to be “free,” it must be administered, or at least underwritten, by the state, because we know that the only way to make something appear to be free is to requisition the necessary funds via taxation. This is, in fact, precisely the rationale for the existence of the modern welfare state, in which in the context of the Netherlands, for instance, it is understood to be “the task of the state to promote the general welfare and to secure the basic needs of people in society.”

Education is a right (per the UN Declaration), is constitutive of the general welfare, and a basic need. Thus it must be “fully guaranteed by the government” (to quote Noordegraaf from the Dutch context regarding social security, mutatis mutandis).

The upheavals we are seeing, then, are what happen when we can no longer sustain such guarantees. They are what happen when “free” becomes unaffordable and unsustainable.

This means that the flawed logic of the welfare state will have to be critically reexamined, no small task for a developed world that has steadily built infrastructure according to logic for much of the past seventy years.

For Quebec this does not bode well, as Cardus’ Peter Stockland puts it, “This is a province in the grip of reactionary progressives afflicted with severe intellectual and institutional sclerosis. Their malaise prevents any proposals for change from being given fair hearing, much less a chance of being put into play. Real change, not merely revolutionary play-acting, is anathema in this province.”

Order Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy here.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, is making the rounds in the national media promoting his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.

This morning, Father Sirico was on the air in the Decatur, Illinois area as the guest of Brian Byers of Byers & Company on WSOY AM:

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Next up, he took to the airwaves on the Great Voice of the Great Lakes, WJR Radio in Detroit, Michigan, as the guest of host Frank Beckmann:

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Rev. Sirico also made an appearance in Central Texas on The Lynn Wooley Show:

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We’ll keep you posted as Father Sirico makes more appearances to spread the word about his moral defense of the free market.

At least forty Catholic dioceses and organizations in the United States have filed suit against the Obama Administration for violation of First Amendment rights.  According to CNSnews.com,

The suits filed by the Catholic organizations focus on the regulation that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last August and finalized in January that requires virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that can cause abortions.

The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong and that Catholics should not be involved in them. Thus, the regulation would require faithful Catholics and Catholic organizations to act against their consciences and violate the teachings of their faith.

Read the entire article here.

In his new book, Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy, Fr. Robert Sirico cautions against the encroachment of government regulations and oversight of religiously-based health care institutions:

Because of the vital role of Christianity in the history of health care, we should feel the gravity of what has been happening to religious hospitals and clinics in the past several decades—and in an accelerated fashion in the past few years. Government’s increasing role in health care has tended to secularize these otherwise vibrant civil institutions—altering their meaning, culture, and mission, and compromising their effectiveness. As government reaches ever deeper into the health care sector, it forces these religious institutions to become more and more like secular institutions, until it actually begins to exclude people of conscience from remaining involved with the very institutions they created in the first place! This may strike some as merely a parochially Christian concern, but what’s at stake is relevant to everyone in this country: both religious liberty and the recovery and maintenance of vibrant, loving, and authentic health care in America.

Fr. Sirico’s words echo those of Cardinal Wuerl, who states, “The First Amendment enshrines in our nation’s Constitution the principle that religious organizations must be able to practice their faith free from government interference.”

The suit was filed after the Obama administration failed to agree to requests from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to rescind regulations forcing employers to offer artificial contraception and abortion as health care to employees.

On his Koinonia blog, Rev. Gregory Jensen reviews Rev. Robert Sirico’s new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.

Jensen:

“Daring though the argument is, especially for a Catholic priest, it is also essential that it be made since for too many people (including business people), free market economic theory and policies are little more than a justification for greed. While not denying the excesses of capitalism and real sins of capitalists, Fr Sirico wisely doesn’t allow sin to have the last word. Rather, and like St Augustine who inspired his own spiritual journey, the helps us see the goodness hidden beneath the distorting effects of moral failure.

Though irenic in tone, Sirico is unwilling to cede ground to those who imagine—wrongly in his view—that “socialism, liberalism, collectivism, and central planning” (p. 185) are morally superior and more effective in generating wealth. They aren’t and however noble the intention they are come up morally and practically short because they neither anthropological sound nor effective in caring for the material needs of the human person. The latter is especially the case when we turn to the needs of the most vulnerable among us. It is the free market that best fits the truth of the human person. And it is only the free market that has demonstrated the ability not only to lift the human person out of the poverty that was the almost universal lot of humanity even as late as 200 years ago.”

Read “More than Mere Economics” here.

Beginning today, the conference “Religion and Liberty — A Match Made in Heaven?” gets underway in Jerusalem. Sponsored by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS), the Acton Institute and others, the event asks questions such as, “Is capitalism not only efficient but also moral?” In conjunction with this May 20-24 conference, Acton is offering its two Jewish monographs through Amazon Kindle at no charge.

The two titles:

  • Judaism, Law & The Free Market: An Analysis by Joseph Lifshitz. [Kindle link]
  • Judaism, Markets, and Capitalism: Separating Myth from Reality by Corinne Sauer and Robert M. Sauer [Kindle link]

Also see the Sauers’ 2007 Acton commentary, “Jewish Theology and Economic Theory.”

In the conference description, JIMS notes that “several speakers will discuss why Israel — in fact no country — should grant special privileges to religious institutions, nor subsidize religious activities. While few would advocate this approach for our Jewish state, there will be compelling arguments made about why religious communities in Israel would flourish with less government support. On Tuesday we will discuss how free markets enable religious communities to conveniently observe their traditions. There also will several panels which will provide the philosophical foundation for freer markets in Israel. More importantly our speakers will explain why free market policies will break down Israel’s oligarchical institutions that impose high product prices on Israelis and limit economic opportunity.”

In addition to JIMS and Acton, the Jerusalem conference is sponsored by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Atlas Network and Maarah Magazine.

Acton now has a dozen or so eBook offerings on social thought understood through a religious lens. For a listing of titles, please visit this page.