Acton’s busy week of media appearances continued last night with Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico joining guest host Arthur C. Brooks – president of the American Enterprise Institute – on The Hugh Hewitt Show to discuss Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, and the compatibility of Catholic social teaching with free market capitalism. We’ve embedded the interview for you below, and added the video of Arthur Brooks’ 2012 Acton University plenary address after the jump.
Television evangelist Pat Robertson is certainly known for saying provocative things, and he’s done it again.
When Robertson’s co-host, Wendy Griffith, said not all families could afford to have multiple children, Robertson replied, ‘That’s the big problem, especially in Appalachia. They don’t know about birth control. They just keep having babies.’
‘You see a string of all these little ragamuffins, and not enough food to eat and so on,’ he said, and it’s desperate poverty.’
“Vanish the Night,” a new single by UK band, Ooberfuse begins with Shin Dong-hyuk, the survivor of a North Korean death camp, saying, “Don’t forget us.” The band released the song to coincide with North Korea Freedom Week (April 28-May 4) and to draw attention to the atrocities happening in North Korea. You can watch the video below:
Cherrie Anderson, the lead singer of Ooberfuse, says this about the song:
We have joined forces with Shin Dong-hyuk…His account of the routine violence and brutality inside Camp 14 ignited our desire to respond somehow. Vanish the Night calls for the lights to be turned on in what has been described as one of the darkest places on earth. Our song is a message of hope for the ordinary people of North Korea whose suffering often goes unnoticed and whose cries are largely unheard.
Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a North Korean death camp and is the only known escapee. When he was just 13 years old he overheard his mother and brother planning to break out so he told the guards and then he was forced to watch as they were executed. Several years later, he met a man named Park, a political prisoner. Park spoke of the the world outside the camp and outside North Korea; he gave Dong-hyuk a desire to live outside the horrors of his country. The pair decided to attempt an escape. Park died trying to climb the electric fence, but Dong-hyuk got out, posed as a North Korean soldier, and made his way out of the country. You can read his full story here. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) also describes the horrors happening in Dong-hyuk’s former home: (more…)
Over at Fieldnotes Magazine, Matthew Kaemingk offers a good reminder that in our social solutions-seeking we needn’t be limited to thinking only in terms of market and state. By boxing ourselves in as such, Kaemingk argues, Christians risk an overly simplistic, non-Biblical view of human needs and human destiny:
When presented with almost any social problem (education, health care, poverty, family life, and so on), today’s leaders typically point to one of two possible solutions—a freer market or a stronger state. But in opposition to these rather myopic solutions, I think there is a more complex and biblical lens through which leaders can consider the social eco-system and the people who move around in it.
Instead of simplistic descriptions of human beings as either clients of the state or competitors in the market, the Christian Scriptures present humanity in a refreshingly complex way. We find a complex creature with a wide variety of gifts, abilities, interests, aspects, loyalties, and solidarities. Created in the image of God, human beings in the Bible are anything but simple. They are musical, communal, religious, artistic, familial, charitable, scientific, literary, moral, athletic, fun, and funny. The robust anthropology found in the Bible depicts a creature that could never be fully defined, controlled, content, or nourished by the market or the state alone—thank God.
This perspective ties in well with Rev. Robert Sirico’s final chapter in his book, Defending the Free Market, where he criticizes the popular notion of homo economicus, from which plenty of bad economic policy and market decision-making has been generated:
Any man who was only economic man would be a lost soul. And any civilization that produced only homines economici to fill its markets, courts, legislative bodies, and other institutions would soon enough be a lost civilization. Familial love, voluntary dedication to philanthropy and faith, the creation of art and music would be at their most minimal level, and whole sectors of life would completely vanish. Focusing the whole of life on the acquisition of quantifiable goods does not bring true happiness or peace, as almost everyone knows. We all have material appetites, but we do not (pray God) always feed them…Human beings find ultimate fulfillment not in acquisition but in developing, sharing, and using their God-given creative capacities for good and giving themselves to others. (more…)
I rather like Serene Jones’ piece in Huffington Post, “Economists and Innkeepers.” Jones got some things right. She knows that Christian Scripture teaches many economic lessons, like subsidiarity and stewardship (although she doesn’t use those terms.) She says, “Economic theory is replete with theological and moral assumptions about human nature and society” and that is correct. As Istituto Acton’s Kishore Jayabalan reminds us,
Things like the rule of law, a tradition of equality for the law, which should cut down on corruption, which give people the confidence and security in the future to take some risks and to develop the goods that they have either personally or socially, and use them for the good of all.
We make economic, legal and moral decisions that affect others every day, in ways large and small. Jones is practically defining subsidiarity when she says, “I would argue that rather than being merely faceless economic units, we all have a moral responsibility for the care of each other.” (more…)
Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico appeared in a a video interview released yesterday by Catholic News Service, following a press conference in Rome last week held to introduce his new book “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Economy” to the local media.
CNS Rome bureau chief Frank Rocca interviewed Sirico regarding his own moral defense of market economics and asked his opinion of the libertarian novelist and intellectual Ayn Rand, whose philosophy of objectivism and rational-self interest gained widespread support from laissez faire capitalists in the United States and Europe.
Rev. Sirico expressed his opinion of Rand’s “false gospel” of laissez faire capitalism in these words:
Ayn Rand is a very interesting character … She attempts to defend capitalism by the use of Aristotelian and, even at times, Thomistic categories. But I think that Rand has a counterfeit form of Christianity. Her success … to a very great extent, is [due to] the moral passion she brings to the question of economics.
Ann Schneible, who interviewed Rev. Robert A. Sirico for Vatican Radio today (see PowerBlog post for audio) also published an interview with the Acton Institute president and co-founder on the Catholic news site, Zenit. Excerpt:
ZENIT: In response to those Christians and Catholics who are hesitant about buying into the idea of a free market economy, how can one demonstrate that there are elements to a free market – or Capitalist – economy which are compatible to Catholic social teaching?
Father Sirico: There are a number of elements that can make the connection. I keep going back to this anthropological question because that’s the beautiful way to do it. I think it was Chesterton who said that Catholicism is the religion of stuff, by which he was really addressing the Incarnational nature of the Church. We have incense, and bells, and candles, and vestments, and all these things. In other words – in a non-liturgical context – the material world is good. We see that in the book of genesis. And God places us in the material world and asks us to pursue sanctity there.
The moment he places us in the material world, he places us in the context of limitations and scarcity. This gives rise to economics – which means that we have to find a way that is in accord with our nature, that is ethical, that is appropriate, that is effective – to make use of nature for the glory of God. It is in the same way an architect who studies geometry uses that geometrical precision and technique to build the façade of a cathedral, and thereby rendering praise to God. So too in a different way, the entrepreneur, who discovers the use of something or the combination of other things and represents and organizes them and creates a network and a marketing campaign to build a business, that that architectural construct ends up sustaining many families who participate in that, and sustain many consumers in the sense that they buy a good or a service at a higher quality and for a lower price than they would have otherwise, thereby giving their family a little more money to use at their discretion; all of these things, too, can be considered rendering nature for the glory of God. And that’s enterprise; that’s business. I don’t like the word “capitalism” because I think it’s too narrow a word. I like “free economy,” or “free market.”
Read “A Moral Case for a Free Economy — Acton Institute’s Co-founder Explores Free Market Economy in New Book,” an interview by Ann Schneible on Zenit.
On Vatican Radio, Acton President and co-founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico discusses his new book Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Market Economy with reporter Ann Schneible.
According to Vatican Radio, the broadcasting station of the Holy See:
… Fr Sirico highlighted his objectives in writing this book. Defending the Free Market, he said, was written “with the intention of making accessible economic ideas that I thought were important in general terms; but, in particular, especially for religious people, to understand there is what we call a normative or moral dimension to economic activity.”
“It’s not just, live by the Ten Commandments and open a store,” Fr Sirico explained, but he wanted to demonstrate “that there’s something more internal to the whole dynamism of a market economy that makes sense both economically and morally.”
Click on the media player below to listen to Schneible’s full interview with Rev. Sirico:
A review of Rev. Robert Sirico’s Defending the Free Market is featured in the National Catholic Register, written by Fr. C. J. McCloskey. The National Catholic Register is reviewing a number of books, in an effort to help readers discern issues pertinent to the upcoming election.
In Fr. McCloskey’s review of Defending the Free Market, he notes:
Father Robert Sirico could not have written a timelier book than his latest, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy….Why do I say his book is timely? Because we are mired in the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, one that is all the worse for being global and that shows indications of worsening in the years ahead. All of this follows by a mere couple of decades the almost total collapse of Marxism throughout the world, with the fall of the Soviet Empire and its dependents.
Father Sirico quotes Alexis de Tocqueville — perhaps the greatest observer of the unique character of America — who observed, “Freedom is, in truth, a sacred thing; there is only one thing else that better deserves the name,” and that is virtue. And then he asks, “What is virtue if not the free choice of what is good?” Both Father Sirico’s masterful endeavors at the Acton Institute and this book contribute needed guidance to help our country reclaim its status as “exceptional and virtuous.”
Read the entire review of Defending the Free Market and the Register‘s other reviews here.