Posts tagged with: civil society

In a lengthy interview in the Daily Caller, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg picks up many of the themes in his terrific new book, Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. Here’s an excerpt:

Daily Caller: In what ways do you think the U.S. has become like Europe?

Samuel Gregg: If you think about the criteria I just identified, it’s obvious that parts of America — states like California, Illinois, and New York — have more-or-less become European. Likewise, the fact that most federal government expenditures are overwhelmingly on welfare programs replicates the situation prevailing throughout Western Europe. Then there is the unwillingness on the part of many Americans to accept that we cannot go on this way. It is one thing to have problems. But it’s quite another to refuse to acknowledge them.

Daily Caller: What’s so bad about becoming like Europe? It’s not that bad of a place. It’s not like becoming like North Korea, right?

Samuel Gregg: I lived and studied in Europe for several years. So I can report that there is much to like! But even leaving aside many European nations’ apparent willingness to settle for long-term economic stagnation, I would argue that it’s becoming harder and harder to be a free person in Europe. By that, I don’t mean a re-emergence of the type of socialist regimes that controlled half of Europe for 50 years. Rather I have in mind two things. (more…)

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Wednesday, February 20, 2013

According to Daly, Soviet government sought to dictate every aspect of life in the name of the common good, including the indexing of Soviet publications by libraries. He writes, “[I]f Soviet publications failed to end up in libraries, then, as Lenin railed, ‘we have to know precisely whom to imprison.’”

In the Winter-Fall 2012 issue of Modern Age (54, nos. 1-4), Jonathan Daly contributes a helpful exploration of what happens when desire for the common good goes bad. His article, “Bolshevik Power and Ideas of the Common Good,” focuses on the disastrously ill-conceived effort by the Russian revolutionaries to promote the common good through their self-proclaimed “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Daly contends, “The horrors of Bolshevik governance stemmed directly from their repudiation of the precious fruits of Western political thought.” It is a classic example of the tendency of some to promote cheap moralisms while ignoring the empirical realities of any given context, what then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger termed in 1985, “the antithesis of morality.” In addition to fostering mass suspicion, starvation, and ultimately a despotic police state in Russia, the Bolsheviks also have the blood of literally millions on their hands, Orthodox Christians as well many Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and others—the rotten fruit of their noble quest for the common good. (more…)

National Review Online asked Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg to weigh in on President Barack Obama’s second term inaugural address.

Gregg points to “our president’s worldview that the government is the primary way in which we address our common problems and realize our responsibilities and obligations to each other as citizens and as human beings.” He wonders if it has occurred to Obama that “many such responsibilities and obligations might be realized outside the realm of politics … ”

Gregg goes on to suggest, for the presidential reading list, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and Jacques Maritain’s writings on civil society in the United States.

Read “Why Barack Obama Needs to Read Alexis de Tocqueville” by Samuel Gregg on NRO.

While you’re at it, pick up a copy of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (Encounter Books, January 2013).

In Britain, a new zeitgeist is capturing business people, academics and political players from both the Left and Right, says the BBC’s Matthew Taylor:

Catholic Social Teaching is a doctrine well-suited to today’s quest for more ethical businesses, a less overbearing state and a more vibrant and cohesive civil society.

Now, as in 1891, many fear we will not be able to adapt to profound change without dangerous social upheaval. It may not provide easy or even practical answers right now, though it does, at least, seem to be grappling with the right questions.

And for those of us tired of the ritual adversarialism and technocratic wrangling on show in Westminster, there is something rather inspiring about the response of a shrewd operator like Jon Cruddas.

When I ask him whether the ethical foundations of Catholic Social Teaching imply a different way of thinking about politics, he says: “Yes, I do and I see them in different parties. It’s going to be uncomfortable, difficult, but it means that we have to focus in on almost transcending the formal architecture of politics in the national good.”

Jordan Ballor and Hunter Baker recently argued that Catholic Social teaching could be a worthy model for engagement here in America too:
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Blog author: pdevous
posted by on Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It is clear that what President Barack Obama has achieved is historic: Being re-elected when not a single one of his major initiatives has enjoyed broad popular support.

What is also clear is that the moral and spiritual demographics of the United States have changed considerably.  If Gov. Mitt Romney, an honorable man of moderate political preferences and conservative personal convictions, cannot attract a winning coalition we are in deep trouble.  His loss illustrates the change that has occurred in the nation and the challenges it portends.  Politics is about addition and Gov. Romney surely tried to run an “additional” campaign and I can think of no Republican who was more likely to accomplish what was necessary for a center-right victory.

Last night’s election illustrates that Americans have become a people more dependent on the government. The country will continue to trend culturally and politically to the left. This means that conservative causes that take their impetus from the truths and moral rationality offered by the Judeo-Christian political  and philosophical tradition will continue to be marginalized, the Church’s liberty restricted, and the cultural, moral, political and spiritual leftism, hedonism,  and materialism, with its attendant anomie and nihilism, will continue the long march through all of our cultural and governmental institutions. (more…)

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
posted by on Thursday, July 26, 2012

Last night, I went to see the newest “Batman” movie with my fellow Acton interns. I thought it was a great movie, and I recommend seeing it and reading Jordan Ballor’s review of it. I also want to echo some of the themes that Jordan discussed in his piece.

After the movie was done, it turned out that the people who had parked behind me were in need of a jump for their car. I didn’t know these people, but I did see that they needed help. And so I did something that people obsessed with government or with markets should think is impossible: I gave them a jump. No one forced me to do it. No one paid me to do it. I just did it, because it was the right thing to do.

The episode sort of represented many of the things that have been annoying me recently about my fellow libertarians (there may also be some guilty conservatives). I think they put far too much emphasis on having a market based solution to nearly every social problem. Yet giving someone a jump seems to defy traditional money-chasing impulses. There simply are things which we do not rely on a market to provide. (more…)

Don’t blame the culture wars for the recent debates about contraception, says Phillip W. De Vous in this week’s Acton Commentary (published Apr. 4), the real culprit is statism. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Think Tanks and Civil Society Program at the University of Pennsylvania this morning released its “2011 Global Go To Think Tanks Rankings” and associated trends analysis. The full report will be posted here soon.

The Acton Institute was ranked No. 12 globally on the “Top Thirty Social Policy Think Tanks” (the same ranking as in the 2010 survey) and No. 39 on the “Top Fifty Think Tanks in the United States” ranking (up eight places).

James McGann, the director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, said the genesis of the rankings project “developed from a series of requests from donors and journalists to produce national, regional, and international lists of the preeminent think tanks. Our ongoing efforts with respect to the rankings are now defined by our drive to understand the role of think tanks in governments and civil societies globally, so that we can help to improve their capacity and performance.”

McGann said that the rankings process “relies on a shared definition of public policy research, analysis, and engagement organizations, a detailed set of selection criteria, and an increasingly open and transparent nomination and selection process. Particularly with this year’s improvements, we believe this process to have tremendous utility for think tanks, policymakers, donors, and the public. We are especially pleased with the increased participation from developing and BRICS countries, which allows us to bring special attention to the important work they are doing, often under a set of circumstances with a set of obstacles all their own.”

The BRIC countries include Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The number of think tanks operating out of these five countries increased by more than 100 percent between 2008 and 2011, from 419 to 985 think tanks, according to the report. China and India have the second and third most think tanks, respectively. In total, 425 think tanks are listed as based in China. The United States leads with 1,815.

Congratulations to the Washington-based Brookings Institution for earning the distinction of “Top Think Tank in the World” for 2011.

From Penn:

Launched in 2006, Penn’s “Global ‘Go-To Think Tank’ Rankings” annual report has become an authoritative source for the top public policy research institutes in the world. James G. McGann, assistant director of Penn’s International Relations Program, directs the Think Tanks and Civil Society Program at Penn. This year the report focuses on the rise of the G20 countries and the role of think tanks in the Arab Spring and other global trends.

This year’s ranking report is based on a 2011 worldwide survey of more than 1,500 policy makers, scholars, journalists, current and former think-tank executives, public and private donors, intergovernmental agencies and academic institutions. Approximately 5,300 think tanks were nominated for inclusion in 30 category rankings.

About the Think Tanks and Civil Society Program:

As part of the International Relations Program at the University of Pennsylvania, the TTCSP conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world. TTCSP was established in 1989. TTCSP maintains a database and network of over 6500 think tanks in 213 countries. Often referred to as the “think tank’s think tank,” TTCSP examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations. Over the last 25 years, the Program has developed and led a series of global initiatives that have helped bridge the gap between knowledge and policy in critical policy areas such as international peace and security, globalization and governance, international economics, environment, information and society, poverty alleviation, and health. These international collaborative efforts are designed to establish regional and international networks of policy institutes and communities that improve policy making as well as strengthen democratic institutions and civil societies around the world. TTCSP works with leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs and maintains the world’s leading research database and directory of think tanks. TTCSP produces the annual Global Go-To Think Tank Index that ranks world’s leading think tanks with the help of a panel of over 1500 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions and policymakers.

Blog author: lglinzak
posted by on Monday, June 20, 2011

Current events in India have left the country wrestling with an important question: What is civil society and what does it consist of? These are not easy questions to answer as definitions of civil society can greatly vary.

According to a story on the Wall Street Journal’s  India Real Time section, “…political demonstrators have demanded greater civil society involvement in the governing country…” While many throughout India are trying to define a civil society and who represents it, the Journal cited a definition by Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute:

Samuel Gregg, … notes that up to around the 18th century, the term “civil society” was used to distinguish the realm of the secular from the realm of the church, but then underwent a shift. India Real Time made a stab at defining the term “civil society” from his work as comprising those “intermediate associations” of society – academic, cultural, religious or charitable – that are separate from the family, and from the institutions of the state and the market. Mr. Gregg calls such associations “little platoons” that draw “people out of their immediate family without subsuming them into the state” and that have “the capacity to assist people to look towards those higher ends of truth, beauty, and the good.”

This definition effectively covers charities, non-governmental organizations or NGOs, civic associations like local Residents’ Welfare Associations, social movements, traders’ associations, social service initiatives, faith-based groups and so on.

Click here to read to full article.

Acton University has been full of thought provoking lectures and stimulating discussion. It is easy to see why the attendees wish the conference was much longer. There are many interesting lectures, one just wishes he or she could attend all of them.

Yesterday Dr. John Bolt, of Calvin Theological Seminary, taught a course titled “Centralization and Civil Society.” Bolt’s course paid special attention to Alexis de Tocqueville and his contributions to defining a civil society. As one can imagine, by bringing Tocqueville into his lecture, Bolt discussed the role of religion and the sense of community in the United States.

Bolt explained that America is self-reliant; however, this self-reliance didn’t come through reflection. The American people didn’t wake up one day and decide they wanted to be more self-reliant. Instead, Bolt explains that America’s self-reliance is habitual. Furthermore, Bolt discussed how Tocqueville demonstrated that America can afford to be self-reliant and individualistic because it was founded on Christian principles and that liberty exists in the United States because of religion and Christian principles.

The dinner lecture was a real treat last night. The Acton Institute has always promoted entrepreneurship and what it means to intertwine faith with entrepreneurship. A panel of successful entrepreneurs shared their insight on how business can promote the common good. Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children and Alliance for School Choice and chairman of the Windquest group, articulated how she finds joy in enterprises that make a difference in other people’s lives. She believes that enterprise is a vehicle we use and invest our God given talents in.

According to Mark Murray, president of Meijer, Inc., entrepreneurs need to be servant leaders. In order to succeed they must remain rooted in integrity. Murray explained how the values found in Christianity, such as humility, are not only applicable but needed in business. Furthermore, we are all created in the mage and likeness of God. We are called to use our God given gifts and express our creativity. Murray believes we put our talents and creativity to use through work, and the development of the human capacity is promoted through business.

Stewardship was highlighted by John Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam. We are all temporary custodians of everything and have to do the best with the assets we are given. Furthermore, Kennedy said that we must remember people and employees are all assets and leaders must discover the gifts of their employees and how those gifts can most help the enterprise. Not only are employees assets, but so is capital. Entrepreneurs are called to be stewards of both their employees and capital and use all they are given to the fullest extent, and by doing this entrepreneurs demonstrate their appreciation for all God has given and blessed them with.

While there are flawed business leaders who are not examples of how businesses contribute to the common good, Acton University attendees witnessed what it really means to be called to entrepreneurship. When the calling of entrepreneurship is accepted and founded in Christian principles, the entrepreneur is a tool to create and promote the common good.