Posts tagged with: Conservatism in the United States

Kirk_BookThis week on Radio Free Acton, we’re joined by Bradley J. Birzer, the Russell Amos Kirk Chair of American Studies and Professor of History at Hillsdale College, and the author of a new biography of the founding father of the American conservative movement, Russell Kirk. Birzer’s book, Russell Kirk: American Conservative, examines the life and thought of Kirk, the means he used to build a conservative Christian humanist movement, and examines Kirk’s influence on conservative leaders who followed.

We at the Acton Institute are great admirers of Kirk, and were greatly blessed to have him serve as a member of our first advisory board at the time of Acton’s founding. We were also honored to host what would be Kirk’s final lecture before his passing in 1994 as part of our Lord Acton Lecture Series. I’ll post that after the jump, along with another gem from Acton’s archives: Kirk’s introduction of his good friend William F. Buckley, Jr. at Acton’s first anniversary dinner, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1991, which showcased the great man’s sharp wit and fun-loving spirit.


We’ve had an amazing collection of speakers participating in the 2015 Acton Lecture Series, and today we’re pleased to be able to share the video of one of the highlights of the series: George Weigel’s discussion of ten essential things to know about Pope Francis, which he delivered on May 6th.

Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D. C. An eminent Catholic theologian, he’s the author of numerous books, most famously Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II; he’s also a columnist, commentator, and regular guest on radio and TV to discuss Catholic issues. There are few who are better qualified to examine the always surprising and sometimes controversial papacy of Pope Francis.

We present the video of Weigel’s lecture below, and after the jump I’ve included a recent edition of Radio Free Acton, which features a discussion between Weigel, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico, and our Director of Research Samuel Gregg.


scaliaOver the past hundred years few judges have been able to match the wit, wisdom, and intellectual rigor of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. During his thirty year career he has been an indefatigable champion of originalism (a principle of interpretation that views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed as of the time of enactment) and a vociferous critic of the slippery “living constitution” school of jurisprudence. When future historians assess his career Scalia will be viewed as one of the most thoughtful, principled, and important jurists of his era.

But even a legal genius can produce a disastrous opinion, and Scalia delivered his worst twenty-five years ago this week in Employment Division v. Smith. As Michael Stokes Paulsen explains, this ruling has “proven to be one of the most devastatingly long-term harmful Supreme Court constitutional decisions of the past half century.”

bureaucracySmall-government conservatives often share a regrettable trait with their big-government liberal opponents: they frame the issue almost exclusively in terms of the size and scope of the federal government.

Although conservatives sometimes expand their view and include state governments, the focus tends to miss the local governments, city and county municipalities, that can have a considerable impact on an individual’s life. But in Texas they’re beginning to take notice—and are doing something about it:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has been vocal about his opposition to what he characterizes as an overabundance of regulations implemented at the local level in his state.

During remarks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 13th annual Policy Orientation in January, Abbott said that “the truth is, Texas is being California-ized with bag bans, fracking bans, tree-cutting bans…We are forming a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that are eroding the Texas Model.”

And as James Quintero, the director of the Center for Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Daily Signal, “big government at the local level is still big government.”


CP Headshot May 2014Named after distinguished theologian, Michael Novak, this award recognizes outstanding scholarly research that examines the relationship between religion, economic freedom, and the free and virtuous society. Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, assistant professor of economics at Ave Maria University, is the latest Novak Award Winner.

Pakaluk is Founder-Director of the Stein Center for Social Research at Ave Maria University. This center is an interdisciplinary institute for advanced studies in social science and social thought. It focuses on questions of gender, personality development, marriage and family formation, fertility and demographic change, religious practice, and the formation and education of children. Pakaluk currently works in the areas of demography, family studies, the economics of education and religion, and the interpretation of Catholic social thought. She earned her doctorate in economics at Harvard University (2010), where her dissertation under Caroline Hoxby examined the relationship between religion and educational outcomes. Prior to earning her doctorate from Harvard University, Catherine received a master’s degree in economics from Harvard (2002), and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in mathematics and economics (1998). (more…)

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

To kick off this special Summer/Fall 2014 double issue of Religion & Liberty, we talk with scholar Bradley J. Birzer whose new biography of Russell Kirk examines the intellectual development of one of the most important men of letters in the twentieth century. We discuss the roots of Kirk’s thought and how it developed over time, in a characteristically singular fashion. Kirk, the author of The Conservative Mind, was not easily pigeonholed into ideological categories – fitting for a man once described as “the most individual anti-individualist of his day.”

I want to thank Bradley Birzer, a Hillsdale College prof who is currently Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado Boulder, for offering Religion & Liberty an advance look at his forthcoming book on Kirk. A special thanks also to Annette Y. Kirk for her gracious help locating photos of her late husband in the archives of The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Mecosta, Michigan, and sharing these with our readers. Be sure to check out the website of the Kirk Center for news about its academic programs and publications.

Kirk was a long time advisor to the Acton Institute. Here is the audio from his last public lecture, hosted by Acton in 1994, on “Lord Acton and Revolution.”

In this issue of Religion & Liberty, we review two new books. Economist David Hebert tells us that Russ Roberts’ How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life – An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness is a helpful reminder about the “limits of pure economics.” Even though the books and film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythic fantasies are phenomenally popular today, John Zmirak points out that his “bourgeois virtues were widely sneered at” by his contemporaries. He reviews The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that Tolkien Got and the West Forgot by Jonathan Witt and Jay Richards. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Every Wednesday we publish the Acton Commentary, a weekly article that covers topics related to Acton’s mission. As 2014 comes to a close I thought it would be worth highlighting the superb commentaries that have been produced by Acton Institute staffers over the past year.