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Category: News and Events

Just because everyone is doing it doesn't make it a good idea.

Along with “democratic socialism,” “protectionism,” and “Berning,” the word “populism” has become part of 2016 America’s vernacular thanks to the circus that is the presidential election. Like it sounds, “populism” deals with popularity, in this case among American voters. In a new op/ed for the Detroit News, Samuel Gregg explains why populism will absolutely not make America great again.

This isn’t the first time populism has appeared in American or world history. “It often manifests itself,” Gregg argues, “whenever enough people conclude — sometimes correctly — that the political system is rigged in favor of insider-elites who pursue their own interests rather than the common good.” An individual capitilizes on disgust with “insider-elites” and the “establishment” for his or her own benefits.  This person sees the opportunity to utilize “frustration with the status quo” and he or she then promises the people real and serious change. Voters are lulled into trusting that once this charismatic leader is elected, he or she will fix everything and make the world a better place for the voters who felt overlooked by previous leaders.

Gregg explains some characteristics of the “populist leader:”

Over time, the actual content of the populist leader’s words starts to matter less and less. [Voters] ignore obvious contradictions in the leader’s statements and policy positions. These are never especially clear and regularly “evolve,” depending on the need or audience.


As news of the Panama Papers scandal continues to break, Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has been making the media rounds to help people understand what appears to have happened and why. Sam made two appearances on radio yesterday, first on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show, speaking with guest host Ed Morrissey of; later in the afternoon he spoke with Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon. The audio of both interviews is posted below.

Blog author: sstanley
Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

A lack of reason may lead to violence and an inability to respond to crises, but that didn’t stop the West from abandoning it. In a new article for the Catholic World Report, Acton’s Samuel Gregg reflects on Pope Benedict XVI and his 2006 address near Regensburg, Germany. “Ten years later,” Gregg laments, the West is “still in denial.”

On September 12, 2006 Benedict made global news with his lecture–his words enraged, gained support, and were analyzed countless times. The speech was concerned with the “deep problems of faith and reason that characterize the West and Christianity today,” particularly in relation to Islam. Despite causing great controversy, this speech is considered to be one of the most important papal addresses on world affairs. Benedict argued that our understanding of the divine ultimately creates the foundation for how we view and “can judge particular human choices and actions to be unreasonable.” Gregg continues:

Most commentators on the Regensburg Address did not, however, observe that the Pope declined to proceed to engage in a detailed analysis of why and how such a conception of God may have affected Islamic theology and Islamic practice. Nor did he explore the mindset of those Muslims who invoke Allah to justify jihadist violence. Instead, Benedict immediately pivoted to discussing the place of reason in Christianity and Western culture more generally. In fact, in the speech’s very last paragraph, Benedict called upon his audience “to rediscover” the “great logos”: “this breadth of reason” which, he maintained, orthodox Christianity has always regarded as a prominent feature of God’s nature. The pope’s use of the word “rediscover” indicated that something had been lost and that much of the West and the Christian world had themselves fallen into the grip of other forms of un-reason. Irrationality can, after all, manifest itself in expressions other than mindless violence.


Too bad there isn't a "Hamilton" song titled, "Sovereign Debt Solutions."

Too bad there isn’t a “Hamilton” song titled, “Sovereign Debt Solutions.”

Despite Greece being the current poster child for sovereign debt, national debt crises are nothing new and won’t be going away anytime soon. Governments habitually solicit capital loans only to default. In a new article for Public Discourse, Samuel Gregg discusses not only Greece, but also some of the deeper issues surrounding sovereign debt crises. He asks:

What is the most reasonable framework through which governments should try to address such matters? Should they try to resolve them through appeals to necessity and pragmatism? Or should they seek more principled approaches that take justice seriously? If so, where may such methods be found?

When facing these financial woes, governments often turn to–what some would consider–justifiable, but unethical solutions:


walter_williams2On this day in 1936, Walter E. Williams was born in the city of Philadelphia. The George Mason University economist is famous for his classical liberal views, often arguing that free market capitalism is not only the most moral economic system known to mankind, but it allows for the creation of the most wealth and prosperity. He has discussed many diverse themes, including: race in the United States, politics, liberty, education, and more. A prolific writer, Williams has written ten books, dozens of essays for scholarly journals, and hundreds of newspaper articles.

In honor of turning eighty, here are ten excellent quotes from Williams:

At the beginning of each semester, I tell students that my economic theory course will deal with positive, non-normative economic theory. I also tell them that if they hear me making a normative statement without first saying, “In my opinion,” they are to raise their hands and say, “Professor Williams, we didn’t take this class to be indoctrinated with your personal opinions passed off as economic theory; that’s academic dishonesty.” I also tell them that as soon as they hear me say, “In my opinion,” they can stop taking notes because my opinion is irrelevant to the subject of the class — economic theory. Another part of this particular lecture to my students is that by no means do I suggest that they purge their vocabulary of normative or subjective statements. Such statements are useful tools for tricking people into doing what you want them to do. You tell your father that you need a cell phone and he should buy you one. There’s no evidence whatsoever that you need a cell phone. After all, George Washington managed to lead our nation to defeat Great Britain, the mightiest nation on Earth at the time, without owning a cell phone.

Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.


og-fn-americas-news-hqOn Sunday, March 27, Acton’s President and Co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico will join Shannon Bream and Leland Vittert on Fox News’ America’s News HQ. He will offer an Easter reflection and comment on any significant breaking news. You can catch him between 1 and 2PM Eastern. America’s News HQ on Fox News Channel reports the latest national and world news. It reports expert insight on health, politics and military matters.

021816PearceRichardsDebate-6In the Detroit News, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, offers a commentary on the two-year battle with the city of Grand Rapids over the institute’s exempt status under state property tax law (see the March 15 Acton news release, “Acton Institute Prevails in Property Tax Dispute with City of Grand Rapids” for background). In his opinion piece, Rev. Sirico writes:

We were assured earlier from then-City Attorney Catherine Mish that it all wasn’t political, but a brief signed and submitted by assistant city attorneys tells another story.

The city made the accusation that the Acton Institute “is a politically driven think tank that publishes right-wing libertarian, philosophical and political propaganda tempered with extreme-right religious viewpoints.” The city further alleged that our educational curricula and publications were “tailored narrowly to the mission of spreading its right-wing libertarian viewpoint.”

It’s clear Acton was being denied this exemption for so long not on the merits, but on personal and political grounds. An undercurrent of menace is unmistakable throughout the brief, directed at our religious and economic teachings.

This is part of a larger trend of over-spending city bureaucrats targeting nonprofits to make up for the city’s own mismanagement of funds.

Read “When politicians want your money” in the Detroit News by Rev. Robert A. Sirico.

Also see the March 18 article “City on hook for $205K in tax decision” by Rachel Weick in the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

“We had asked the city at the very beginning of this process to identify for us why they believed we didn’t qualify. They could never articulate an answer for us,” said [Acton attorney Deborah] Ondersma. “I would say that the most disappointing part of the process for me as an attorney was to see the tone of the city’s briefing. That was surprising and disappointing to me.” (more…)