Category: News and Events

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A new Acton Notes is now available online. Acton Notes is a monthly newsletter published by the Acton Institute. This month’s issue features an article by Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, about Socialism. Rev. Sirico points out a couple of ways in which to confront those who mistakenly hold to the fashionable ideology.

If a person identifies with the idea of common ownership of the means of production, point out that this is impossible because you hold no rights over anything. “Ownership implies the right to control and sell the good, which cannot be done if everyone is said to own something,” writes Rev. Sirico. Common ownership, he points out, is actually State ownership. Another point with which to confront a Socialist is the absence of money. Point out the significant failures that the Soviet Union experienced when attempting to implement this policy. Close with words from Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Spe Salvi. Read the President’s Message to find out more.

Other contents of the February issue include:

  • First Brazilian TFAVS Receives High Marks from Participants
  • From Acton Conference to University Doctorate
  • What Would Jesus Buy? Rev. Sirico on Fox Business News
  • Glenn Sunshine to Discuss Wealth, Work, and the Church

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, February 5, 2008

From a review in the New Yorker magazine (HT) of David Levering Lewis, God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215, in which the author

clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in creating “an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe that . . . made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory religious intolerance, cultural particularism, and perpetual war.” It was “one of the most significant losses in world history and certainly the most consequential since the fall of the Roman Empire.” This is a bold hypothesis.

To say the least. It is of course true that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Muslims had been in possession of a number of Aristotle’s works in Arabic that were not readily available in the Latin West. It isn’t so clear, however, that the depth and breadth of Greek philosophy and the classical virtues were saved by Islamic philosophers during the West’s “dark” ages. There’s much more on that here, including this summary:

The Arabic translations, although they did serve as an early reintroduction for some Western Europeans to Greek thought, didn’t “save” Greek knowledge as it had never been lost. It had been preserved in an unbroken line since Classical times by Greek, Byzantine Christians, who still considered themselves Romans, and it could be recovered there. There was extensive contact between Eastern and Western Christians at this time; sometimes amiable, sometimes less so and occasionally downright hostile, but contact nonetheless. The permanent recovery of Greek and Classical learning was undertaken as a direct transmission from Greek, Orthodox Christians to Western, Latin Christians. There were no Muslim middlemen involved.

In any case, here’s the take of the New Yorker reviewer on Lewis’ book:

I can foresee a time when another matter important to us, the threat of ecological catastrophe, will prompt a historian to write a book in praise of the early Europeans whom Lewis finds so inferior to the Muslims. The Franks lived in uncleared forests, while the Muslims built fine cities, with palaces and aqueducts? All the better for the earth. The Franks were fond of incest? Endogamy keeps societies small, prevents the growth of rapacious nation-states. The same goes for the Franks’ largely barter economy. Trade such as the Muslims practiced—far-flung and transacted with money—leads to consolidation. That’s how we got global corporations.

So, the development of free market economies so often attributed to Western civilization are actually due to Muslim nation-states…and for that reason we ought to prefer European culture!

How refreshing!

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Friday, January 18, 2008

The Wall Street Journal jumps on my bandwagon:

We’re all for putting more money in the hands of the poor and moderate earners, especially via stronger economic growth that will give them better paying jobs. But the $250 or $500 one-time rebate check they may now receive has to come from somewhere. The feds will pay for it either by taxing or borrowing from someone else, and those people will have that much less to spend or invest themselves. We are thus supposed to believe it is “stimulating” to take money from one pocket and hand it to another.

To put it another way, when the government calculates gross domestic product, it expressly omits transfer payments. It does so because GDP is the total of goods and services produced in the economy, and transfer payments produce no goods and services. The poor will spend those payments on something, but the amount they thus “inject” into the economy will be offset by whatever the government has to tax or borrow to fund the transfers. No wonder stocks sold off yesterday after Mr. Bernanke endorsed this 1970s’ economic show.

A fiscal stimulus that really stimulates would change incentives, and do so permanently so workers and investors can know what to expect and take risks accordingly.

It’s fun to watch as layers are gradually peeled away from the conventional wisdom to reveal that the CW is, well, wrong. Old CW: Evangelicals are marching in lockstep behind Mike Huckabee; Emerging CW: Evangelicals are just as fragmented in their opinions at this point in the nominating process as anyone else.

Mr. Huckabee did well with churchgoers [in Michigan], but the bigger story is so did other Republicans. According to exit polls, of the 39% of Michigan voters in the GOP primary who described themselves as born-again or evangelical, Mr. Huckabee won 29%. A full 57% instead voted for either Mr. Romney (34%) or Mr. McCain (23%). Of those who said a candidate’s “religious beliefs matter a great deal or somewhat,” Mr. Romney won 36%, Mr. McCain 26% and Mr. Huckabee 25%…

…The conventional story line has also ignored the problem of Mr. Huckabee as a candidate. The former governor did well in Iowa in part because he surged late and stayed a few steps ahead of a critical examination of his positions and record. The evidence in South Carolina suggests that as religious voters have learned more about him — and as they’ve started to meditate on the economic and national-security stakes in this race — they’re taking a good, hard look around.

They’ve got plenty of choices. Mr. Thompson has been successfully pounding Mr. Huckabee in debates and ads as a “liberal” on economic and immigration. Mr. Romney, at a rally in Columbia on Wednesday, ran hard on his promise to “strengthen families.”

Even Mr. McCain — who is benefiting from this social-conservative dogfight (leaving him with much of the independent and moderate vote that went for him in 2000) — rolled into South Carolina with a belated pitch for the core Republican base. At an event in Greenville, the Arizonan unveiled an endorsement from conservative Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, and highlighted his pro-life record and his promises to appoint strictly conservative judges.

I suppose you could call me one of those evangelical voters, and I’ve never been sold on Huckabee – primarily because of economics and foreign policy. With all the media hype over Huckabee’s “evangelical-powered” Iowa win, I was beginning to feel a bit lonely. It’s nice to be able to look at the real numbers and find out that I was never really alone. But even beyond that, it’s nice to know that evangelical voters are not necessarily going to give a candidate a pass on taxes, big government and wartime policy simply because he or she is a Christian.

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Thursday, January 17, 2008
Think, Congress! THINK!

Congressional logic:

As the increasingly troubled economy emerges as the trump issue of the 2008 political season, senior congressional Republicans said Wednesday they would put aside demands to make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent if that was what it took to get quick action on a stimulus package…

…The White House has not addressed the issue in detail, but Bush, who has been traveling in the Middle East, is scheduled to hold a conference call today with congressional leaders. To avoid a veto, they hope to get his nod in advance on the outlines of a plan that would probably include a $500 rebate check for taxpayers, extended unemployment benefits for the jobless, and incentives for businesses to expand and create jobs.

Let’s think about this for a second:

  • There’s at least a tacit acknowledgment here that it’s better for the nation for this money to be in the hands of consumers instead of the government, because they’ll go out and spend it in order to “stimulate” the somewhat sluggish economy.
  • In order to get more money into the hands of consumers in the short term, Congress is probably going to allow tax rates to rise pretty significantly over the longer term, thus removing (presumably) a lot more money from the economy than the $150 billion that this neat little package is estimated to cost.

I know it’s difficult for Congress to think outside of the box, but let’s try for just a minute: What if… instead of handing out a $500 bribe to the voters, you actually made the US a more attractive place to do business? Perhaps by actually reducing the size, scope and cost of government, thereby leaving more of that cash in the private sector where it belongs – where wealth is created instead of just siphoned off of productive people? Heck, you might even obviate the need for those extended unemployment benefits and business incentives, because the drag on the economy from the cost of government would be significantly smaller…

But it is an election year you know. So what are you going to do with your $500?

Every Black democrat in America should read today’s column by Nathan McCall in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution titled “Clinton gets proxy to play race card.” Hilary and her supporter’s antics are now playing the race card against Obama. Why? Perhaps the Clinton’s didn’t expect a non-white person to be in contention against established power brokers. Democrats with black leadership is meant for rhetoric only many would say.

McCall reminds us that Hillary Clinton seems ultimately self-interested and will use blacks as a means of getting into office if necessary (just as her husband did). Of course, this is not new. Democrats have been pimping the black community for years now.

This explains why the Democrats refuse to address the black genocide in America through abortion. Nearly 90 percent of all abortion facilities are in or near minority communities and over 43 percent of all black pregnancies end in abortion– this is nothing less than a predatory removal of blacks from American society.

What’s even worse is that many blacks are willing to be reduced to being political pawns in the Clinton power surge.

Did Hilary Clinton recruit Bob Johnson, the billionaire former owner of Black Entertainment Television, to work in her “house” to do her bidding against Obama? Johnson made reference to Obama’s drug use while proffering the mythology about the Clinton’s deep commitment to black issues. What commitment? There is no evidence that the Clinton’s did anything for black people other than offering rhetoric and empty platitudes.

McCall reminds us that Johnson contributed little to black progress himself by creating a network to peddle misogynistic and denigrating images of black life as normal. Clinton’s enlisting a man who developed dehumanizing programs is even more evidence that black people are just a means to her political ends. John Edwards would never stoop to that level.

As McCall observes “having an African-American do her bidding on the racial front frees Hillary to stake out the moral high ground.” Black America’s beginning to see this more and more.

It gets worse. Bill Clinton’s reference to Obama’s vision as a “fairy tale” should be seen as nothing less than condescending. A fairy tale? Why does Bill think it ridiculous that a man like Obama could become president? What is it about Obama that stands out?

Clinton also referred to Obama as a “kid.” Or maybe Clinton should have just called him “boy” like the Jim Crow era ideologies would dictate. What do the Clinton’s really think of Obama? We’re learning America! It’s leaking out as the Clinton’s panic and recruit hoodwinked blacks into their house to do their bidding as McCall suggests. Why do the couple not feel that Obama is intelligent or mature enough to be president?

As McCall points out was Clinton “a kid” at 46 when he became President?

The Clinton’s have turned the democratic race into one about race. Their true views are leaking as they realize that their dream of ascending to presidency using blacks as a means may be collapsing because of a brown man.

Does the Clinton camp believe blacks to be stupid and not to catch their reductions of Obama in such a way that has nothing to do with the content of his character?

I am not an Obama supporter, by any means, but why black Democrats believe that Hilary Clinton actually cares about black issues exposes just how well the Clinton’s have bamboozled black America. McCall is right that the Clinton’s “aggressively racial maneuvers” may backfire on them on them in the end as their true views of blacks get exposed.

Dr. Jay Richards made an appearance on Studio B with Shepard Smith on the Fox News Channel this afternoon. If you didn’t catch it live, we have the clip right here, courtesy of Fox News:

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why listen to the new Radio Free Acton podcast? Because you’ll have the opportunity to hear news analysis before old media gets around to reporting it.

Here’s a case in point. In the inaugural January 11 edition of Radio Free Acton, I say the following:

I think what’s resonating with people in Michigan is Mike Huckabee as an example of what’s being called the “new evangelicals.” The mainstream media has really missed this, I think, because they’re associating “new” evangelicals, young evangelicals, with the so-called evangelical “left,” like Jim Wallis. What they’re missing there is Huckabee’s stalwart stance on traditional social conservative issues like abortion and gay marriage. And what differentiates Huckabee and new evangelicals from the so-called Religious Right traditionally is focus on other moral issues such as stewardship of the environment and international development and these sorts of things. So it’s really an evangelical “moderate” [category], which covers a lot of young people who are just as conservative on life issues as their forebears, but have a lot of concerns across the board in terms of public policy.

It’s two whole days later that the New York Times reports, “Huckabee Splits Young Evangelicals and Old Guard.”

Subscribe now, friends. Subscribe now.

Rev. Sirico wrote about Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Spe Salvi, in an op-ed in the Detroit News yesterday. In the encyclical, writes Sirico, “Pope Benedict XVI has delivered a wonderful — and oh-so-needed — reminder of what socialism was (and is), and why it went wrong.”

Sirico summarizes the practical and moral problems with socialism that are explained in Spe Salvi, and the gaping holes that Marx left in his theories. Marx believed that all the problems associated with a revolution would automatically sort themselves out after a short period of dictatorship. Marx, however, overlooked some critical points. Sirico writes that “the moral problem with socialism is more profound: It exalts theft as an ethic and overlooks the human right of freedom.”

Read “Benedict dissects problem with socialism” at DetNews.com today.

Read Spe Salvi on the Vatican Web site here.

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Friday, January 11, 2008


The Acton Institute is proud to unveil the first edition of our brand new audio podcast, Radio Free Acton! We’re excited about the possibilities of taking our podcast to the next level, and we hope that if you haven’t already subscribed to our feed, that you’ll do so now. Just add this link to whatever podcasting program you use, or subscribe through iTunes right here.

For our first show, I’m joined by Jordan Ballor, Ray Nothstine, and John Couretas to discuss the upcoming Republican primary in Michigan. This particular race has provided a rich vein of material for those interested in the intersection of religion, economics, and politics, and we dig into all of those issues as they relate to candidates Romney and Huckabee especially. Additionally, we hear from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse on how Marxist thinking about the traditional family still influences the modern left.

To download the podcast, click here (13.6 mb mp3 file).