Posts tagged with: acton institute

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
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Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who is president of the Ruth Institute as well as a senior fellow in economics here at the Acton Institute, debated Peter Jaworski, a co-author of the recent book, Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests, at an event hosted by the Austin Institute.

Check out this engaging discussion about not only questions of the morality and legality of things like prostitution and kidney transplants, but the picture of the human person on offer from differing philosophical and economic programs.

I also reviewed Markets without Limits for Books & Culture, “Markets & Moral Myopia.”

Today at Mere Orthodoxy, I argue that

the duty of the Christian statesman (or stateswoman) to the poor requires defending human rights, supplying urgent needs, reducing barriers to market entry, and guaranteeing access to the institutions of justice, seeking realistic, gradual reform as possible and prudent.

Of particular interest to readers of the PowerBlog, I dedicate substantial space to explaining and advocating for free markets:

Jobs are what the poor need, and jobs are created by businesses. People settle for bad jobs only when good ones aren’t available. Thus, eliminating barriers to market entry ought to be of primary concern to the Christian statesman, combatting the unjust inequality created by closed markets. Barriers to entry include onerous occupational licensing and patent laws, high corporate taxes, zoning laws, overregulation, and subsidies. These things close markets to new competitors because, even though it might seem against their interest (except for subsidies), large, established firms are more likely to benefit from them and lobby for them (which is called rent seeking)….

In free markets, properly understood, these barriers are kept to a minimum, increasing competition and wealth creation. The more businesses there are looking for workers, the more demand there is for labor. Thus, not only will there be more jobs, but wages will be higher as well. It should be no surprise that the decline in American entrepreneurship has coincided with wage stagnation. Beyond wages, an additional benefit of increased competition is that it also drives down the price of consumer goods, thus lowering the cost of living for everyone as well. Free markets help the poor—and everyone else—in terms of production (labor), distribution (wages), and consumption (lower cost of living).

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On October 27, 2016, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico addressed the audience at the Acton Institute’s 26th Anniversary Dinner in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In his remarks, he reflected on the state of American politics and culture, the societal crisis we find ourselves in, and proposed a way forward based on a vision of a free and virtuous society.

You can view his entire address below.

Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought Cover Front DraftThe contrast between the treatments by David Bentley Hart and Dylan Pahman of the question of the intrinsic evil of “great personal wealth” this week pretty well established, I think, that in itself wealth is among the things neither forbidden nor absolutely required. In fact, as Pahman puts it at one point, perhaps “Christians should strive to have wealth from which to provide for others.”

But all this is to merely show that wealth isn’t absolutely forbidden. From this it does not follow that we can merely do whatever we want or simply seek to gain as much as we can. Riches do remain a temptation, however, and a powerful one at that.

In this week’s Acton Commentary, the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper expounds in some detail the power of money to corrupt us and turn us away from God. The temptation is unavoidable because of the way in which money can mimic God. As Kuyper puts it, “In money, there rules a power that closely approaches God’s omnipotence, at least insofar as the satisfaction of the needs and wants of one’s outer life is concerned.”

These warnings from Kuyper about the abuse of money and its power to enthrall us come from one of his later works, the first volume of Pro Rege, part of a three-volume series that focuses on restoring the Christian understanding of the lordship of Christ and its implications for all of life (these volumes are also part of the larger Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology).

One of Kuyper’s other works dealing with wealth, poverty, and economics is his earlier speech at the opening of the 1891 Christian Social Congress in Amsterdam. And earlier that same year Pope Leo XIII had promulgated the encyclical letter Rerum Novarum. Together these two texts usher in an era of modern Christian social thought and they sound very similar notes on the challenge represented by “the social question,” or the relationship between labor and capital.
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On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with Karl Zinsmeister, Vice President at Philanthropy Roundtable and former chief domestic policy advisor to President George W. Bush, about efforts to improve public education outcomes over the years, why charter schools are succeeding where past reform efforts have failed, and the role of private philanthropy in fostering that success.

Karl will be kicking off our Evenings at Acton series this fall on Monday, October 3rd with a lecture entitled Indispensable: How Philanthropy Fuels American Success. We hope you’ll be able to join us!

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
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bookIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Piety and Politics: The Church’s Social Responsibility,” I take up the Kuyperian distinction between the church conceived as organism and as institute and point out some ways in which such ideas can help us navigate the dangerous waters of social and political engagement.

When the Letter to Diognetus describes the diffuse influence of Christians in the world, it uses the living imagery of the soul:

What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world.

Hunter Baker has more recently argued that “the church is the soul of the system.” If this is not to be understood in a clericalist sense, then it must refer to the organic church as the soul of the polis, so to speak.

Abraham Kuyper presents the organism/institute distinction in his sermon, “Rooted & Grounded,” which appears in the forthcoming anthology On the Church, part of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Kuyper’s ecclesiology can well be understood as the crux of his public theology, and the organism/institute distinction is at the core of his conception of the church in its relation to God and the world.

In “Rooted & Grounded” Kuyper observes that both realities the distinction points to must be kept together. We have to do justice both to the dynamic, living, organic aspects of the body of Christ as well as the structural, formal, and institutional expressions of this community.

Thus, says Kuyper,

“Rooted and grounded” unites organism and institution, and where Scripture itself refuses to allow any separation, it weaves them together. By means of the person who sows and plants, the metaphor of vital growth overflows into that of the institution; by means of the living stone, the metaphor of the building flows over into that of the organism. The church of the Lord is one loaf, dough that rises according to its nature but nevertheless is kneaded with human hands and baked like bread. The church is called a multitude of priests, legitimated through birth but consecrated only through anointing. A bride brought forth by the Father but accepted by choice. A people, finally, who indeed sprouted from the living trunk but nevertheless are organized with wisdom and guided with self-motivation.

Just as body and soul are united in the human person, the church as organism and institute are united in the people of God and, ultimately, in union with Jesus Christ.

kuyper1On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with Jordan Ballor, a general editor of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology, a major series of new translations of Abraham Kuyper’s key works. We discuss the genesis and scope of the project, and examine what Kuyper has to say to modern Christians and why his contributions remain relevant a century after their initial publication.

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below.