Posts tagged with: europe

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Thursday, April 3, 2014

american heroIn a fascinating essay in Mosaic, Charles Murray examines the spirit of innovation in America. He asks,

As against pivotal moments in the story of human accomplishment, does today’s America, for instance, look more like Britain blooming at the end of the 18th century or like France fading at the end of the 19th century? If the latter, are there idiosyncratic features of the American situation that can override what seem to be longer-run tendencies?

The author of Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, Murray amassed data from virtually all of human history, across cultures and in vast categories of human endeavor. He believes that there are patterns to innovation, creativity and advancement, and that certain cultural standards support and encourage this, while others degrade it. Murray makes the case that America is floundering, if not fading, when it comes to innovation and invention. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, March 18, 2014

putinNote: This is an update and addition to two previous posts, “Explainer: What’s Going on in Ukraine?” and “What Just Happened with Russia and Ukraine?.”

So what just happened in Crimea?

On Sunday, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia. Today Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty making Crimea part of Russia (it was a former satellite state of the Soviet Union). Putin says he does not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine.

Why would Russia want to annex Crimea?

In 1997, Crimea and Russia signed a treaty allowing Russia to maintain their naval base at Sevastopol, on Crimea’s southwestern tip (the lease is good through 2042). The base is Russia’s primary means of extending military force through the Mediterranean. (The Black Sea is connected to the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus Straits.) Without a military base in Crimea, Russia would be weakened as a global military power.

Earlier this month Russia’s parliment authorized a Putin to use the military on Crimea. (Technically, Russia’s parliament authorized Russia’s military forces to enter “Ukraine,” giving themselves a legal cloak to target more than Crimea.)

Where (and what) exactly is Crimea?
(more…)

Daniel Hannan, Member of the European Parliament and writer, says he believes the European Union is “making its peoples poorer, less democratic and less free.” In the short video below, he explains why, when it comes to government, smaller is better.

)

ukraine-soldiersNote: This is an update and addition to a previous post, “Explainer: What’s Going on in Ukraine?

What just happened with Russia and Ukraine?

Last week, pro-EU protesters in Ukraine took control of Ukraine’s government after President Viktor Yanukovych left Kiev for his support base in the country’s Russian-speaking east. The country’s parliament sought to oust him and form a new government. They named Oleksandr Turchynov, a well-known Baptist pastor and top opposition politician in Ukraine, as acting president.

In the southern part of the country, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, elected in an emergency session last week, said he asserted sole control over Crimea’s security forces and appealed to Russia “for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness” on the peninsula. On Saturday, Russian president Vladimir Putin asked his own parliament for approval to use the country’s military in Ukraine. The request comes after Putin has already sent as many as 6,000 troops into Crimea.

Why would Russia want to invade Crimea?
(more…)

On Monday, I linked a podcast that Ancient Faith Radio host Kevin Allen did with Metropolitan Antony, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States, about the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. Allen has followed up with another interview, this one with Ukraine expert James Jatras, a former U.S. diplomat, U.S. Senate staffer and a member of the American Institute of Ukraine. Jatras talks about a number of issues, including the legal basis — or lack thereof — of the current government in power, deep seated government corruption on all sides, the prospect for elections, Church-State relations, and insights into Ukraine’s trade relations with both the West and Russia. The current situation, he warns, is fraught with risks on all sides.

“Will they be able to hold elections?” he asks. “Will violence break out in other parts of the country? Let’s hope not. I think ultimately a lot of this may be decided by the economy … Whom do you even send the aid to in Ukraine? I don’t think there will be much aid coming to Ukriane from the West. At some point they’re going to turn back toward Russia.”

Jatras continued: “I think somehow, the Europeans especially, and the Russians need to work out some understanding between themselves and … see if they can help promote reconciliation among Ukrainians. And that’s going to be a very tall order.”

Listen to “Ukraine – Another Perspective” on Ancient Faith Radio.

Radio Free ActonIn this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards joins our crew to host a discussion of the crisis in the Ukraine, with perspective provided by Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg, Director of Communications John Couretas, and with an insider’s perspective of current events from an evangelical Christian currently residing near Kiev. (Our friend from Kiev remains anonymous in order to ensure his safety and security.) Paul and his guests discuss the geopolitical context of the crisis, the different forces currently acting on the Ukraine that have brought the situation to the current acute state, and the religious and social undertones that are shaping the contours of Ukrainian society as it copes with the unrest.

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

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Madonna of Bruges

Madonna of Bruges

Robert M. Edsel’s The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a terrific book regarding a part of World War II history that few are aware of. One of Hitler’s goals was to amass great art for his personal collection, and to built a museum and a cathedral in Linz, Austria. What Edsel calls a “backwater of factories and smoke” would become, in Hitler’s vision, a cultural center to rival anything Europe had ever seen, and in no small part, to vindicate Hitler’s rejection from the Academy of Fine Art Vienna.

In addition, Herman Göring, Nazi Reichsmarschall, also wanted to create a personal collection of fine art, silver, and household items.

And thus, they plundered Europe.

While destroying “degenerate” art (such as Picasso’s and that of Jewish artists), the Nazis took hold of whatever they wished…and they wished for a lot. Göring literally stole train loads of art and furnishings. Michaelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, the only sculpture of his to reside outside of Italy at the time, was unceremoniously dumped onto mattresses to be secreted away. The Bayeux Tapestry, a 224-foot long medieval work, dating from the 1070s, not only an art piece but a historical document, was hunted by Göring. After being moved to the Louvre for safe-keeping by the French, it was (as were thousands of other art pieces) crated up and hidden by the Nazis. (more…)

“With every passing year, and each new EU bailout, Europeans seem to be forgetting where they came from,” writes journalist David Aikman in a new review of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. In The Weekly Standard, Aikman commends Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg’s book for showing how the long post-war project designed to advance European integration, economic security and social welfare has in fact degenerated into government dependency and bureaucratic bloat. The former Time magazine senior correspondent and bestselling author also applauds Gregg for reminding us that Marxist inspired “redistributionism” is really the core problem. Excerpt from the review:

The idea of a European federal superstate as an economic and political entity was never far from the minds of Europe’s key founders. Democratic capitalism was to be the main economic engine of that entity. But as Samuel Gregg points out in this cogently argued study—which frequently refers to Alexis de Tocqueville—whereas the American federal experiment emphasized economic and political freedom as the prerequisites for social prosperity and “human flourishing,” Europe’s postwar program was heavily influenced by social democracy. The goal became economic security for everyone, an idea that required labor-union political power and large bureaucracies to administer the welfare state.

Gregg correctly reminds us that behind social democracy’s stress on fair economic outcomes for Europe’s population lay the fundamental Marxist principle of redistributionism. He certainly does not attribute the European Union’s recent woes to the influence of Marxism, but he assembles a variety of ingredients that add up to what he calls “social Europe,” a social-welfare coterie of EU countries in which general prosperity has declined as economic freedoms have been whittled down. (more…)

Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute and author of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America can Avoid a European Future, and more recently Tea Party Catholic:The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing, delivered a lecture on November 7th in the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium focusing on the subject of his latest book as part of the 2013 Acton Lecture Series. We’ve embedded the video of his lecture below; if you’re interested in Gregg’s lecture on his earlier book, you can find that one after the jump.

(more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catching Fire

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Tyranny Is the True Enemy,” I explore the latest film installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, “Catching Fire.” I pick up on the theme that animates Alissa Wilkinson’s review at Christianity Today, but diverge a bit from her reading. As she writes, a major aspect of this second part of the series has to do with fake appearances and real substance, and the need to “remember who the real enemy is.”

Wilkinson is upset with the marketing buzz surrounding the film, arguing that it “declaws” the substantive message of the books themselves. There’s an element of truth to this. It comes home especially when watching an interview like this, in which Jennifer Lawrence seems to embody the idea that for a celebrity in today’s culture, “you never get off this train,” as Haymitch puts it to Katniss and Peeta on their own promotional tour.

But in focusing on the distracting nature of commercial merchandising of the films, I argue that Wilkinson ends up distracted from who the real enemy is. There is much that is morally problematic about the way that the Capitol operates. Wilkinson rightly shows the shallow consumerism and sensuality of Capitol couture. But the fact that this isn’t the real enemy, so to speak, can be shown by a bit of thought experiment.

Suppose that the consumption habits of the Capitol were far less odious to our moral sensibilities. Suppose the citizens all lived chaste, upright, and responsible lives in their city. Their oppression of the districts would be no less troublesome for all their virtuous consumption. The decadence of the Capitol only puts the real tyranny over the districts into sharper relief. John Tamny argues that to read Catching Fire as “anything other than a polemic against communistic, brutal government is a certain act of willful blindness.”

I won’t go quite that far, and I don’t agree that the film/book has nothing at all to do with critiquing consumerism, but I do think that such alternative readings often forget who the enemy really is. As Tamny (mis)quotes from Catching Fire, Katniss herself identifies the enemy as the one “who starves and tortures and kills us in the arena. Who will soon kill everyone I love.”

In the opening sequence of “Catching Fire,” Katniss is illegally hunting in an attempt to provide much-needed protein for her family. At one point, Katniss and Gale come across a flock of wild turkeys. This image is especially striking at the release of this film during the Thanksgiving season.

Far from promising a “turkey in every pot,” President Snow has no regard for the welfare of anyone in the districts. The citizens of the Capitol are all that matter, to the point that people like Katniss have to resort to illegal hunting and the black market for basic necessities like medicine and food.

There is a connection between hedonism and what might be called a “soft” form of tyranny characteristic of the vicious circle between the citizens of the Capitol and the government. And while tyranny in all its forms is to be rejected, the real enemy in the Hunger Games is the hard tyranny of President Snow and his jackbooted thugs. Everything else is, in the end, a distraction.