Category: News and Events

Can we live the good life in the world of finance and banking? Acton’s research director, Samuel Gregg, explores that question in his latest book For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good. He was recently interviewed by the Social Trends Institute in order to discuss the motivation behind writing the book as well as expanding on the theme of his book.

Some of the highlights:

What’s the biggest challenge facing Christians and other people of good will seeking to shape the world of finance and banking?

Perhaps the most important is that we need to learn how modern banking and finance functions before they make suggestions or critiques. There’s no point criticizing something like short-selling unless you understand, first, what short-selling is, and second, the ways in which it actually serves as an early warning system for significant problems in a business or even an economy. In fact, short-sellers are invariably light-years ahead of the regulators when it comes to such matters.

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Jefferson’s rhymes just don’t impress Hamilton.

Despite both being deeply dedicated to protecting Americans from tyranny, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson disagreed on a great deal. In a new review of Hamilton versus Jefferson in the Washington Administration: Completing the Founding or Betraying the Founding, Samuel Gregg calls the founders’ rivalry, “stark, but intricate.” Gregg discusses Carson Holloway’s new book in a recent article for the Library of Law and Liberty. It’s easy to idolize the founders, but Gregg reminds us that they were “given to occasional pettiness. They lost their tempers. They often resorted to underhanded methods to get their way. Nor were they above scheming against each other.”

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson disagreed about the new Constitution and its role in governing the new United States. Holloway’s book and Gregg’s review focus on this significant disagreement.

Gregg summarizes the book:

Holloway approaches the conflict between the Virginia planter and the self-made dynamo from the Caribbean in three parts. Beginning with their debates about the most optimal way of arranging the federal government’s finances and thus setting the nation’s general economic direction, Holloway then studies their deeper rupture over the powers of the executive branch before turning to their battles over foreign policy, at which point he brings the PacificusHelvidiusdebates between Hamilton and James Madison into the discussion.

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People line up to buy basic products at a Dia Dia supermarket in Caracas. Reuters/Jorge Silva

Venezuela, though filled with exotic beaches and many natural resources, has the most miserable economy in the world thanks to high inflation and unemployment. For a detailed background on the current situation in Venezuela, see Joe Carter’s recent explainer. Since Venezuela’s crisis took over the news, there has been plenty of commentary about the chaos and what could have caused it. Acton’s Director of Programs, Paul Bonicelli argues that politics is to blame. “Venezuela is a dictatorship,” he writes in Foreign Policy. “[T]he policies that strangle the economy are only symptoms of the regime’s authoritarianism.”

He continues:

Venezuela used to be one of the success stories of Latin America even though it was never fully democratic and always a country of rich elites dominating the poorer masses without a fully developed middle class. But all that changed for the worse when Hugo Chavez, a former coup-leader, embarked on the path of a statist-socialist populism in the late 1990s. He called his project Bolivarian Socialism, thereby sullying the Great Liberator’s name; the better name is Chavismo, for it is Chavez and his cronies that deserve all the opprobrium for the failures of their project.

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For a limited time (May 26-28), Ismael Hernandez’ new book, Not Tragically Colored: Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America will be free to download.

Despite a seemingly endless series of programs, discussions, and analyses—and the election of the first African-American president—the problem of race continues to bedevil American society. Could it be that our programs and discussions have failed to get at the root of the problem? Ismael Hernandez strikes at the root, even when that means plunging his axe deep into the hard soil of political correctness. A native of Puerto Rico, a former Communist, and a Catholic social worker, Hernandez brings an entirely unique perspective to questions of poverty, government welfare, liberation theology, and black culture. Drawing deeply on both his own experience and a wide array of intellectual sources, Hernandez presents his analysis with bracing honesty and stunning insight. A future free from the “reign of race-consciousness” is possible, Hernandez insists. In Not Tragically Colored, he shows the way.

You can download the eBook from Amazon or Acton’s Bookshop.

See the book’s trailer:

Not Tragically Colored | Book Trailer from Damian P Hanley on Vimeo.

Social democracyWith the rise in popularity of social democracy (a highly regulated market economy), Samuel Gregg has some words of warning against the system. “[T]he briefest of surveys of European social democracy’s history,” he writes in a new article for the Stream, “illustrates how these policies invariably induce the type of slow-motion decline that’s turned much of today’s European Union into the sick man of the global economy.” Americans looking to Bernie Sanders for a social democratic answer to their problems should think twice.

Gregg discusses European social democracy:

If one was to describe the European social democratic project today, it might be summarized as enveloping citizens from birth to death in a web of protections and benefits that seek to shield people from life’s uncertainties, especially the turmoil often associated with market economies.

This translates into things like government-provided healthcare, state-funded public education, extensive labor market regulation, and generous welfare for the poor, disabled, and elderly. All this is provided and managed by a government and large public sector that also seeks to smooth the economy’s ups-and-downs through tools such as deficit-spending and targeted subsidies. Amidst these arrangements, private property and market-mechanisms such as free exchange are maintained in place, albeit with considerable restrictions.

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“2016 Presidential elections in Pittsburgh” by Gene J. Puskar, April 13, 2016. AP

The snow has finally melted in West Michigan, which means it’s time for the year’s second issue of Religion & Liberty.

Recent news cycles have been plagued with images of angry Americans, students protesting and populist discontent. The 2016 presidential election has really brought to light that the American people are angry—specifically with American leadership. Here at the Acton Institute, we’re interested in looking more deeply at these issues, particularly if there is a cure for this great discontent. To understand the issues, we’ve rounded up experts on employment, trade, millennials and other issues surrounding the 2016 race to the White House. The roundup features Justin Beene, Ismael Hernandez, Ann Marie Jakubowski, Jared Meyer and Vernon L. Smith discussing these themes. (more…)

Bishop Dominique Rey speaking at Acton's April 20 conference in Rome.

Bishop Dominique Rey speaking at Acton’s April 20 conference in Rome.

Yesterday in the French section of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, an exclusive interview finally appeared with the outspoken Bishop Dominique Rey of Toulon-Fréjus. Bishop Rey provided the interview when in Rome last month to speak about the current challenges to religious and economic freedom in Europe at the Acton Institute’s conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time“.

The May 19 headline “Sortir du prêt-à-penser” (Thinking Outside the Box) was based on the bishop’s appeal for a deeper study of Leo’s XIII’s  landmark 1891 social encyclical Rerum Novarum and Catholic social doctrine in general, but also his discontent with the way secular Western culture superficially appraises human nature and commonly proposes solutions to social injustice, while leaving God, natural law and human dignity out of the larger picture. Quoting him from the April 20 conference, we read:

Any analysis Rerum Novarum is based on the certainty that the answer to the evils of our time will come not so much as a particular technical solution, but more so out of respect for the natural law, that is, for man himself as God created him, and by recognizing God’s place in the society. Only opening up to such transcendence helps resist absolute [forms of] materialism and consumerism.

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