On Tuesday, President Obama declared this week Captive Nations Week. The first Captive Nations Week was in 1959, proclaimed by President Eisenhower to call attention to the oppression of several countries in the Soviet Bloc and to encourage Americans to support fight for democracy and liberty worldwide. Enjoy the six quotes below as we observe a week dedicated to the beauty of freedom and decrying the continued existence of tyranny:
On July 17, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation declaring the third week of July “Captive Nations Week” for that year and every year “until such time as freedom and independence shall have been achieved for all the captive nations of the world.” At the time, Eisenhower was condemning the unjust and oppressive Soviet regime and lending a voice to those countries trapped under Soviet rule. The threat of the Soviet Union no longer exists today. Still, we have celebrated Captive Nations Week every year since 1959, and are doing so this year, because, unfortunately, threats to freedom persist today.
President Obama released a beautiful proclamation this week that extols the value of liberty and the power of the American commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom at home and abroad.
Since our earliest days, the United States has worked to uphold the rights enshrined in our founding documents. The ideals that sparked our revolution find their truest expression in democracy, and our enduring belief in the right to self-govern is not limited to our borders — we believe the human impulse toward freedom is universal. During Captive Nations Week, we recognize the inherent dignity of all people, and we renew our support for those struggling under oppressive regimes and striving to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.
In Dierdre McCloskey’s latest book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, she builds on her ongoing thesis that our newfound prosperity is not due to systems, tools, or materials, but the ideas, virtues, and rhetoric behind them.
Much has been made of her argument as it relates to the (ir)relevance of those material features as causes: “coal or thrift or capital or exports or exploitation or imperialism or good property rights or even good science.” But less has been said about her views on the spiritual/material as it relates to the byproducts.
I’m not yet finished with the book, but on page 70, she offers her view on the spiritual dynamics of what’s to come.
Contrary to popular claims that an increasingly prosperous free society will necessarily trend toward greed, envy, and idleness, McCloskey sees a future with more resources, and thus, more time and space for the transcendent. “One would hope that the Great Enrichment would be used for higher purposes,” she writes…”Enrichment leads to enrichment, not loss of one’s own soul.” (more…)
In considering issues of political economy today, it is always prudent to refer to wisdom from the past. The American Enterprise Institute’s recent publication “Economic Freedom and Human Flourishing: Perspectives from Political Philosophy” is a collection of essays that analyzes the thought of several prominent philosophers on the connection between the title’s two subjects. Many of the quotes below, pulled from six of the nine essays, challenge foundational aspects of classical liberalism and the value of the free market. As Yuval Levin comments at the end of his essay on Edmund Burke, markets can enable human flourishing, but they do not do so perfectly, “And it is precisely the friends of markets who should be most willing to acknowledge that, and to seek for ways to address it…for the sake of liberty and human flourishing.” (more…)
Evangelicalism historically has always been embroiled in political and social movements in the West. Because of the effective reach church leaders have in reaching the masses in past history, politicians take particular interest in the church during political campaigns. Donald Trump’s new found interest in evangelicalism, then, makes historical sense. Winning over evangelicals could translate into votes. In fact, in the post-Nixon era evangelicals were very useful tools in the growth of the GOP as some Christian leaders unintentionally sold out the mission of the church to win a “culture war.”
In the wake of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, evangelical figures like Harold O. J. Brown, Francis Schaeffer, and C. Everett Koop, joined forces in the mid-1970s to call evangelicals to fight against the proliferation of abortion. Matthew Miller does a wonderful job of explaining how these men woke evangelicals up to an issue that Catholics were already fighting against.
In 1975, Brown and Koop launched The Christian Action Council which became the first major evangelical lobbying organization on Capitol Hill. In 1976, Francis Schaeffer’s film and lecture tour, How Shall We Then Live, served to awaken many evangelicals to the decline of Western culture on issues like abortion, materialism, secularism, the influence of evolution in public schools, the increasing coercion of government power, and so on.
Under the leadership of Brown, Schaeffer, and Koop, evangelicals officially launched their first offensive in the culture war as the pro-life movement recruited more crusaders. In the years that followed, the second generation of evangelical culture warriors were deployed. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, and so on, established a solid pro-life movement. These leaders would be key figures in the formation of The Moral Majority movement of the 1980s which enlisted Christians in the culture war for traditional family values, abortion, prayer in schools, among others.
The Atlantic magazine published an article on July 5, 2016 highlighting the growing problems in Louisiana with legal financial obligations (LFOs) and their effect on poor defendants and the recently incarcerated. Former prisoners usually have a hard time finding a stable income post incarceration and LFOs often require former prisoners to pay thousands of dollars upon release. The average amount in the state of Washington is $1,347, with interest rates that make the debt increase over time. One woman the article mentions owed $33,000 upon her release from prison, and after making minimum payments for 13 years owed $72,000. This is an extreme example, but for the poor — who are the most commonly imprisoned on the socioeconomic scale — any amount can quickly become overwhelming and cause them to face more jail time.
The relationship between the poor and prison is one that has always existed, but one that has become more of a problem in the United States in the recent decades. A 2015 report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) found that our current welfare and criminal justice system actually hurts the poor more than other demographics and in many cases lands them in prison. Their conclusion is that the poor and minority populations in the United States are profiled and arrested at unjust levels. This is not a groundbreaking conclusion, but their findings show some of the extent of the current problem. The problems exist all over the system and pervade different aspects of society from school discipline to Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws.
People often criticize the vast size and scope of the bureaucracy in the United States, but there is another critical issue involving the administrative state that is seldom discussed: the breakdown of the rule of law. The procedural rights that are necessary for a strong rule of law and are so often taken for granted are not guaranteed in the administrative state today.
Strong rule of law is one of the necessary elements for a free and virtuous society, and for a free and functioning market. There are many definitions and nuances in the principle of the rule of law, but the central tenets require that laws apply to all people equally and are enforced consistently and fairly. Proper rule of law precludes arbitrary enforcement, inaccessible or unclear laws, and inconsistent application. The breakdown of rule of law leaves political, religious, and economic freedom vulnerable, endangering the very foundation of our republic. Where rule of law is weak, tyranny and oppression reign.