Archived Posts May 2012 - Page 8 of 10 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I was privileged to participate this week in a conference at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, hosted by the Division for Roman Law and Legal History, “Law and Religion: The Legal Teachings of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations.” My paper today was titled, “Natural Law and Subsidiarity in Early Modern Reformed Perspective.”

In this paper I explore some of the theological context in the sixteenth century among Reformed theologians like Wolfgang Musculus, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Jerome Zanchi, and Franciscus Junius that form a part the early modern pre-history of the modern principle of subsidiarity.

In this respect, I argue particularly that

The link between natural law and the idea of subsidiarity in this early modern Reformed context, then, is in the affirmation of the natural moral obligation to help your neighbor, both at the individual as well as at the institutional level. Subsdiarity, in its most basic (if not yet principled) sense is in this way a corollary of natural law, in that it is an aspect of the rational ordering of society, including human individuals with a common nature (including dignity and relative autonomy) as well as a variety of institutions with different ends (natures). Subsidiarity is an answer to the question of ordering variegated social institutions and relating them to the individual, an answer which became increasingly developed and mature as Reformed social thought progressed.

20120509-001219.jpgI was reminded of the ongoing significance of the “natural moral obligation to help your neighbor” when watching the acclaimed film Winter’s Bone recently. Ree is Sonny’s older sister, and even though she is still in high school she is the sole provider for the family. The family is under enormous financial and legal pressure, and with this background we have this exchange between Sonny and Ree. They see that their neighbors have recently killed a deer, while Ree’s family is starving:

Sonny: Maybe they’ll share some of that with us.
Ree: That could be.
Sonny: Maybe we should ask.
Ree: Never ask for what oughta be offered.

“Never ask for what oughta be offered.” In that short phrase we have a deep insight into the assumed social obligations in this example of Missouri hill country, as well as the rather remarkable willingness to go without, and perhaps starve, rather than ask for what someone is morally obliged to provide. It captures wonderfully the simultaneously coexisting rugged individualism and social conscience of historic American culture.

Ree’s neighbors have full knowledge of her family’s troubles, and later that evening they do in fact bring food to them, with the explanation that the neighbor didn’t want them to think that they “forgot” about their moral obligations.

These scenes are one small illustration of what I argue is the Reformed “vision of a society as one of mutual aid.”

Blog author: mhornak
posted by on Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is ‘fair’ trade really more fair or more just than free trade? Does fair trade create an unfair advantage that hurts the poor more than it helps? There are two different opportunities over the next few days where you can have the chance to explore this topic further.

Acton will be hosting Professor Claar for an online discussion tomorrow, May 9, at 6:00pm ET. In the AU Online session of his popular lecture Fair Trade vs. Free Trade, he will lead us through an analysis and comparison of arguments for and against both fair trade and free trade. Visit the AU Online website for more information and to register.

Also, Victor Claar’s ebook, Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution, is FREE until Friday on Amazon Kindle. Visit the Amazon book page to download your copy today!

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Even at America’s top schools, says Peter Berkowitz, graduates leave without reading our most basic writings on the purpose of constitutional self-government:
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Blog author: Mindy Hirst
posted by on Tuesday, May 8, 2012

“The two most powerful forces in your life are your thoughts and your words.” — Thomas McDaniels

When I ponder this quote, I can’t help but think back to the teachers in my life. After all, they were the ones who taught me to read, write, think, and present ideas clearly. They equipped me to harness these “powerful forces” as I now go into the world to bless others.

During Teacher Appreciation Week, it is appropriate to think about the role of teachers in blessing the world. Together, they invest in millions of lives that each has the potential to do wonderful good in their communities. But when we think about teachers, we usually pass right over them and focus on the huge potential of the students they are teaching . . . and most teachers wouldn’t want it any other way.

However, teachers themselves are blessing the world as they do good and represent Christ. Their daily activities are examples of how Common Grace is at work. What are some of those ways? Here is our list, and we would welcome you to share some of the ones that come to your mind: (more…)

Legatus, an international organization of Catholic business professionals, is celebrating its 25th year of existence. The mission of Legatus is to help its members and spouses live out their Catholic faith and to spread that faith “through good works, good ideas, and high ethical standards.”

The current issue of Legatus magazine features an article by the Acton Institute’s Michael Matheson Miller, research fellow and director of Acton media. Entitled ‘Poverty, social justice, and the role of business’, Miller points out that business people – especially business people with well-developed faith lives – have a crucial role in alleviating poverty and creating truly just environments in which to grow businesses:

Poverty has been the norm for most people throughout history. The real question is: How do we create wealth?

That’s where businesspeople come in. Governments can help by providing clear private property rights, rule of law and justice. But they cannot create wealth. The Church is essential because it helps build a moral culture that supports strong families and vibrant communities. But the Church’s function is not to create wealth. Wealth is created through business and entrepreneurship….

I encourage you to think about how to bring your faith and business skills to bear on questions of poverty, social justice and development. It’s not easy and there isn’t single or simple solution to poverty, but the role that faithful Catholic businesspeople can play has been overlooked. It’s time to change the paradigm.

The men and women of Legatus receive professional and spiritual support in order to make a positive impact  in business, community and family life. They stand poised to change the paradigm, as Miller states, in their vocations as faithful business leaders.

Review of The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, by Jonah Goldberg, (New York, NY: Sentinel, 2012)

With proper training, and maybe a bit of experience on the debate team, it’s easy to recognize logical fallacies in an opponent’s argument. When it comes to popular give and take, the sort of thing we have so much of now on opinion websites and news channels, there hasn’t been decent preparation for arguments outside the columns and blog posts of Jonah Goldberg.

In The Tyranny of Cliches, the National Review contributor, syndicated columnist, author of the bestseller Liberal Fascism, and American Enterprise Institute fellow, convincingly demolishes the Left’s oft-repeated, bumper-sticker slogans that seemingly defy repudiation by many who fear being depicted as a heartless jackanape.

For example, if an impassioned public figure pleads that yet another government expansion and encroachment is “for the children” it is therefore ipso facto in the best interests of everyone. This is a “case-closed” logical fallacy that circumvents rational discussion by declaring that if millions of cute kids benefit, only meanies, bullies, or some contemporary amalgamation of Attila the Hun, Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, and Darth Vader could oppose it.

Not so fast. Goldberg’s new book wonderfully dissects such liberal shibboleths as “social justice,” “diversity,” attacks on organized religion in general and Roman Catholicism in particular, and “separation of church and state” to reveal the hollowness within. In this regard, Goldberg resembles most William F. Buckley, with the difference that the latter stood athwart history yelling stop, and the former stands astride postmodernism to scream “enough!”
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When it comes to the presidency, there are times when historians find the need to reevaluate a president. Often it is because of a crisis, war, or other current events. I can think of no other president that needs to be reassessed more than Calvin Coolidge. Thankfully, Amity Shlaes has written a new biography of Coolidge that will be available next month.

Coolidge preceded a progressive era and fought not just to shrink government, which he did successfully, but harnessed the office to educate Americans on civics and the foundational views of the American experiment.

Coolidge believed those that tried to improve upon America’s Founding principles did not a hold a progressive ideology but were in fact regressive. If you can only read one Coolidge speech, his address commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence is a must.

His personality and quirks are often lampooned but rarely is the power of his ideas attacked. It seems for a long time Silent Cal’s voice has been silenced. That is changing.

If you are in Grand Rapids on May 10, join me for Acton on Tap at Derby Station. I will share fun anecdotes, discuss Coolidge’s views on federalism, and why his views are so relevant today.

Here is a description of the event from the Facebook event page:

President Calvin Coolidge had strong views about self-government and federalism. Even for his time period he was often lampooned as old fashioned and “a throw back.” He tapped into the ideas of America’s Founding Principles and worked to elevate those ideas to the forefront of life. Coolidge popularized religious principles, thrift, limited government, and the rule of law. He also quipped shortly before his death, “I feel I no longer fit in with these times.” He was referring to the centralization of power in Washington. Coolidge believed in a free economy but always with the caveat of idealism over materialism. Some have said he was the last “Jeffersonian” president. Join Ray Nothstine to discuss Calvin Coolidge’s relevance today and what his ideas mean for America’s capability and capacity for self government.

On May 15, Socialist Francois Hollande will be sworn in as France’s new President following elections this past weekend. According to Vatican Radio, Hollande is vowing to overturn many of current President’s Sarkozy’s economic reforms, in an attempt to relieve France’s current debt crisis. One of Hollande’s goals is to increase taxation on millionaires to 75 percent. With more than a quarter of a million French citizens already working in London, this type of heavy taxation may cause an exodus of wealth from France – people with the ability to create and sustain businesses will simply take their money elsewhere to invest.

Kishore Jayabalan, the director of the Rome office of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, spoke to Vatican Radio about the election. You can listen to that interview; click on the audio player:

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Novelist Stephen King recently added his voice to the chorus of superrich clamoring to be taxed more. He knows his critics will call for him to “Cut a check and shut up,” but King says he’s not going to be keep quiet. He believes he and other uberwealthy citizens have a moral imperative to pay more.

Clive Cook has a solution that should satisfy both sides of the issue. As Cook says, “it’s childishly simple once you recognize that two separate questions are involved.”
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France elected a new president yesterday, the socialist Francois Hollande who has vowed to rein in “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism and dramatically raise taxes on the “rich.” Voters turned out Nicholas Sarkozy, the flamboyant conservative whose five-year term was undermined by Europe’s economic crisis, his paparazzi-worthy lifestyle and a combative personality. But Sarkozy’s defeat exposes “a crisis of identity and purpose that presently afflicts much of Europe’s center-right,” according to Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg in a new analysis on The American Spectator.

The reasons for this widespread disarray on Europe’s right are partly structural. Many European electoral systems are designed to prevent any one party from governing in its own right. Many center-right parties consequently find themselves in coalitions with left-leaning groups. This blunts their ability to challenge left-wing social and economic policies.

Tendencies to tepidness are accentuated by the fact that European politics is dominated by career politicians to an extent unimaginable to Americans who don’t reside in Chicago. European center-right politicians are consequently even more focused upon acquiring and staying in office than their American counterparts. That means they are extremely risk-averse when it comes to challenging the European status quo — such as becoming associated with proposals for substantive economic reform or confronting the intolerant leftist hegemony that dominates European educational institutions.

A far deeper problem facing Europe’s center-right, however, is its intellectual-ineffectiveness. By this, I don’t mean that there aren’t any intellectually-convinced European conservatives and free marketers. In fact, there are plenty of such individuals. Their impact upon the public square, however, is minimal.

Such ineffectiveness has several causes. First, most non-left European think-tanks are explicitly associated with existing political parties and usually government-funded. Hence, the willingness of people working in such outfits to criticize their own side for failure to promote conservative principles — something many American think-tanks often do — is limited, if not non-existent.

Gregg also offers suggestions for revitalizing Europe’s conservatives. Read “Europe’s Right in Disarray” by Samuel Gregg on The American Spectator.