Category: Politics

Blog author: abradley
Thursday, December 29, 2016
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On December 27, 2016, at the age of 86, Thomas Sowell published his last column. After publishing dozens of books and hundreds of columns, Dr. Sowell’s retirement may mark the beginning of the end of an era of black intellectuals who were champions of political and economic liberty. Other black scholars like Walter Williams, W.B. Allen, and Shelby Steele are all in the 70s or 80s and there does not seem to be a cadre of like-minded black scholars in their wake.
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Blog author: KHanby
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
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Pope Francis visits congressSince 2013 when the Argentine prelate Jorge Bergoglio officially became the head of the Catholic Church, he has emerged as a key figure in the progressive movement.  Even though Pope Francis does not claim to be a part of any political movement, it is clear that he is representative of the views that many leftists hold.  With his emergence has come much criticism from Catholics who hold opposing views on issues such as environmentalism and the market economy. Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has penned op-eds and blog posts for a number of publications that take Francis to task on his economic pronouncements and even the way he presents the Catholic faith.

This past week in the Wall Street Journal Francis X. Rocca described how Pope Francis became so popular among progressives in a piece titled “How Pope Francis Became the Leader of the Global Left.”  He describes Francis’ influence on different grass root activists and even the time when Sen. Bernie Sanders — a self-described socialist — left the campaign trail to visit the Vatican for a meeting with Francis. Toward the end of his article Rocca quotes Gregg:

Critics warn that, by aligning himself too closely with one end of the political spectrum, the pope could alienate more conservative Catholics. In the recent U.S. presidential election, according to exit polls, more than half of Catholic voters chose Mr. Trump. “The global left clearly see an opportunity to appropriate the prestige of the papacy for their causes,” said Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, a Michigan-based think tank with a religious, free-market approach. “That introduces polarization in the church about issues that Catholics are free to disagree about.”

You can read the full article where Gregg is quoted here in the Wall Street Journal.

IMG_1902In his many addresses to the nation, President Calvin Coolidge made a point of routinely redirecting the country’s attention to the “things of the spirit.”

In his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, he encouraged the country to reorient its vision of abundance, progressing not only in material prosperity, but also “in moral and spiritual things.” In his reflections on the Declaration of Independence, he reminded us that ours is a liberty not meant for “pagan materialism,” which would surely turn our prosperity into “a barren sceptre in our grasp.” Years earlier, as President of the Massachusetts Senate, he urged legislators to remember that “statutes must appeal to more than material welfare.” “Man has a spiritual nature,” he continued. “Touch it, and it must respond as the magnet responds to the pole.”

All in all, the message was consistent: “The things of the spirit come first.” For Coolidge, America had entered an “age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things,” and thus, was in sore need of such reminders. When it came to an occasion such as Christmas — a season compounded with those same temptations of materialism — the theme would continue.

“Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind,” Coolidge wrote in a 1927 Christmas greeting. “To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things there will be born in us a Savior and over us all will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.” That short refrain is likely the most widely read of Coolidge’s reflections on Christmas, but after the presidency, he offered a more extended view. (more…)

Peter Paul Rubens 139Now that conservative Christians are something of a favored group by the executive branch of the US government again after a two-term hiatus, it’s time for many to dust off those old memes regarding the theocratic tendencies of the Christian Right.

To wit, Julie Ingersoll throws some Reconstructionist shade at Betsy DeVos: “Opposition to public education for the religious right is rooted in a worldview in which education is solely the responsibility of families (and explicitly not the civil government), and in which there are no religiously neutral spheres of influence.” There’s a lot wrong with that sentence.

What is more interesting to me, though, is that Ingersoll goes on to invoke the figure of Abraham Kuyper, among others, as influential for DeVos, an influence that has been noticed elsewhere, too. Ingersoll grants that holding to views like those of Kuyper does not necessarily make one a Reconstructionist: “These views were popularized in the work of Rushdoony and the Christian Reconstructionists and became dominant in the religious right, which is not to say that everyone who holds them is a Christian Reconstructionist.”

But this shouldn’t prevent one from being suspicious. Perhaps guilt by association is legitimate in this case after all. So if there is a distinction between Christian conservatism, Kuyperianism, and Reconstruction, we shouldn’t be too careful in distinguishing them, because, after all, “It’s a mistake to think of these distinct movements with hard boundaries that prevent cross fertilization, particularly since Christian education as a replacement for public education is a place where this happens.”
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Although the Cuban people continue to suffer and struggle under the weight of communist rule, many have been encouraged by even the slightest of Raul Castro’s incremental changes toward private businesses.

Out of a total population of roughly 11 million, the number of self-employed Cubans rose from 150,000 to 500,000 between 2010 and 2015. The state still controls the press, the internet, and most of the “formal” economy, but a small portion of the Cuban population is finally gaining the freedom to innovate and create on their own.

To explore that shift firsthand, entrepreneur and investor Marcus Lemonis recently visited the country to film a special edition of CNBC’s The Profit — walking the streets of Havana and talking one-on-one with the country’s “pioneers of capitalism.”

“Walking around the old city, I saw a place full of life, energized by the changes,” Lemonis says. “Instead of working for the State, thousands of Cubans are now working for themselves…A taste of capitalism has helped, but it’s just a taste.” (more…)

Prime Minister Matteo Renzo and his constiutional referendum were rejected last week.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his constitutional referendum were rejected last week.

Just as Acton concluded its ‘Reclaiming the West: Freedom and Responsibility‘conference series in London on Dec. 1, Italy was getting ready to decide its own fate among troubled Western democracies.  On Dec. 4,  the storied homeland to some of the greatest intellectual, political, religious and artistic genius over the last 2,500 years voted to implement or reject deep political reform via the ruling Partito Democratico’s proposed constitutional referendum.

No doubt it was a fundamental decision about freedom and responsibility. But apparently not a ‘do or die’ proposition, as billed from the left-wing party’s bully pulpit.

On Dec. 5, a record poll turnout (70%) resulted in Italians putting their feet down, a clear and decisive stop to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s ‘December Revolution’. The ‘No’ vote won by a landslide margin: 20 percentage points (60% to 40%).

It is as if Italy had tuned in to Acton’s conference ‘The Crisis of Liberty in the West’, where outspoken Europeans advocated for ordered liberty. They called for deeper reflection on core human values and steadfastness in upholding timeless truths, rather than seeking change for its own sake or for some momentary advantage, thereby creating bastions of relativism and utilitarianism among civic institutions. This is challenging advice for Italians, who historically have been seduced by the brilliant sophistry of their scheming political leaders.

Last week, however, Italian voters stood united. They showed they were sick and tired of being hoodwinked during debates and ultimately at the polls. Enough was enough: Basta! No longer would their suffrage be cashed out for any party’s short-term political gain.

In short, Italian voters smelled a rat – a ruse used for a political power play. (more…)

In a new article at The Christian Science Monitor titled “Can ‘economic nationalism’ keep more jobs in US?” Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg is interviewed about President-elect Donald Trump’s stated goal of keeping jobs and businesses from leaving for foreign countries. In the analysis piece by reporter Patrik Jonsson, he cites Gregg as a critic of protectionism:

In short, the United States cannot step back from the world without losing out, critics say.

Trump’s plans are in the short-term “likely to have some benefits for some local communities, but in the long term no amount of protectionism is going to stop you from losing your competitive edge,” says Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich. “At the moment, the pendulum has shifted toward fixing an immediate problem … but those programs will all have to be wound back precisely because they’ll cause inefficiencies.”

Acton Institute Director of Research - Samuel Gregg

Acton Institute Director of Research – Samuel Gregg

This is not a surprising position for Gregg.  He has been a consistent advocate for free trade and whenever possible has opposed the ideas of protectionism and crony capitalism.

The author closes out his article by quoting Trump’s adviser Stephen Moore, who says this: “Trade and immigration are unambiguously good for the country – but it will have to be done in ways that are supported by the American people, not shoved down our throats by the elites.”  While this is an appealing statement, it comes across in a way that portrays Trump’s economic populist ideas as willing to accept the harmful long-term effects for the short-term benefits.

You can read the full article at The Christian Science Monitor here.