Posts tagged with: france

JMM_19 1Our most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 19, no. 1, has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

In addition to our regular slate of articles examining the intersections between faith, freedom, markets, and morality, this issue contains a new entry in our Scholia special feature section: “Advice to a Desolate France” by Sebastian Castellio. Writing in 1562, Castellio was one of the first early modern defenders of freedom of religion on the basis of freedom of conscience, in the midst of a turbulent time of conflict between Roman Catholics and Protestants in sixteenth-century France. His insights should still be valuable today, both to scholars and others who value that same freedom.

As is our usual custom, this issue’s editorial, “Self-Interest and Moral Contexts,” is open access. In it, I examine the necessity of context for determining the morality of the choices of market actors:

The economic idea of self-interest as the driving motivator of economic (and other) behavior is as widely accepted by economists as it is criticized by others. The critics, generally, object to the assumption that “widespread and/or persistent human behavior can be explained by a generalized calculus of utility-maximizing behavior,” to quote George Stigler and Gary Becker. Is not that selfishness? And is not selfishness immoral? And do not people, at least sometimes, act morally? Furthermore, should not they be encouraged to act altruistically instead of only thinking of their own interests?

In reality, context complicates such moralisms.

The full editorial can be read and downloaded here.

Read the entire issue here.

Subscription instructions to access all of our content can be found here.

Bishop Dominique Rey speaking at Acton's April 20 conference in Rome.

Bishop Dominique Rey speaking at Acton’s April 20 conference in Rome.

Yesterday in the French section of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, an exclusive interview finally appeared with the outspoken Bishop Dominique Rey of Toulon-Fréjus. Bishop Rey provided the interview when in Rome last month to speak about the current challenges to religious and economic freedom in Europe at the Acton Institute’s conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time“.

The May 19 headline “Sortir du prêt-à-penser” (Thinking Outside the Box) was based on the bishop’s appeal for a deeper study of Leo’s XIII’s  landmark 1891 social encyclical Rerum Novarum and Catholic social doctrine in general, but also his discontent with the way secular Western culture superficially appraises human nature and commonly proposes solutions to social injustice, while leaving God, natural law and human dignity out of the larger picture. Quoting him from the April 20 conference, we read:

Any analysis Rerum Novarum is based on the certainty that the answer to the evils of our time will come not so much as a particular technical solution, but more so out of respect for the natural law, that is, for man himself as God created him, and by recognizing God’s place in the society. Only opening up to such transcendence helps resist absolute [forms of] materialism and consumerism.


Rev. Robert A. Sirico takes time to chat with participants at the April 20 Rome conference "Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time"

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, second from left, takes time to chat with participants at the April 20 Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time”

French journalist Solène Tadié published an exclusive interview today with Rev. Robert A. Sirico: “Entretien avec le père Robert Sirico pour le 125e anniversaire de l’encyclique Rerum Novarum“. Rev. Sirico was in Rome as the final speaker at Acton’s April 20 Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New things of Our Time” when he made many original comments that spurred journalists to follow up with him afterward.

Toward the middle of her interview, Tadié asked what he thought about European socialists claiming that they had created the term “liberalism”.

Sirico responded with pastoral and intellectual depth about the social and individual dimensions of the human person. In the end, he says Christianity  provides the best “anthropological balance”, between classical liberal individualism and  liberal socialists over-emphasizing the social dimension of man. His answer, published for Institut Coppet, is transcribed below (listen in audio file from 7:52-10:58). It is well worth reading in full:

This is a very French question, and it’s a very good question…. because it goes [back] to the question of the Renaissance and the Iluminismo — the Enlightenment– and a number of these issues that cluster around…And even in the contrast between the French Revolution and the American Revolution.

Without going into a long historical discourse, here is what I what I would say: I think that Christianity, over the centuries, came to a higher and higher view of the dignity of the human person. Certainly, it was a very radical notion right at the beginning, because it is said that people were redeemed not by basis of their ethnicity, but by basis of their personal relationship with Christ. For example in the baptismal rite, I can’t baptize a number of people at once. I have to baptize them one at a time. And so this speaks to the dignity of the human person. (more…)


Pens are piled up as people hold a vigil at the Place de la Republique for victims of the terrorist attack on January 7, 2015 in Paris. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

“Dramatic events often focus our minds on the dilemmas we would prefer to ignore,” begins Samuel Gregg in a recent article for the Library of Law and Liberty. He discuses France and Situation de la France, a new book by professor of political philosophy at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Pierre Manent.

In a nation’s life, there are moments that decisively change its trajectory. One such event was the fall of France in June 1940—a humiliation from which, suggests Manent, it has never really recovered. There is no guarantee that a nation’s leaders will lead the people well in these moments: most of France followed Marshal Philippe Pétain rather than General Charles de Gaulle in that crisis. Nor are today’s leaders, Manent maintains, responding adequately to the problems violently thrust into public view by what he unabashedly describes as les actes de guerres committed by an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in early 2015.

The reaction of France’s leaders to the murder of cartoonists and Jews by three French-born Muslims in Paris, Manent observes, was to preside over mass street marches and outpourings of grief while repeating, mantra-like, the same easily disprovable bromides that follow every act of Islamist terrorism (“This has nothing to do with Islam”) and obstinately declining to consider what must be done politically if France is to defend itself against jihadism. Yet such a refusal, according to Manent, is logical because to act appropriately would mean admitting that France’s present political arrangements cannot address the new realities. The point of the book is to identify the nature of the danger, explain why France’s present political regime cannot address it, and then sketch a reasonable way forward.


In his book Living the Truth, the German Thomist Josef Pieper presents the following thesis:

All obligation is based upon being. Reality is the foundation of ethics. The good is that which is in accord with reality. He who wishes to know and to do the good must turn his gaze upon the objective world of being. Not upon his own “ideas”, not upon his “conscience”, not upon “values”, not upon arbitrarily established “ideals” and “models”. He must turn away from his own act and fix his eyes upon reality.

I can think of no other passage so contrary to the spirit of our age. This spirit has been made evident in the reaction of our political and religious leaders to the November 13 ISIS terrorist attacks and the November 30-December 11 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

That these events took place in the city most representative of Western thought from the time of St. Thomas Aquinas through that of René Descartes and then of Jean-Paul Sartre shows how the West has gone from being a Christian to a modern and finally to a post-modern society. These are characterized by three distinct types of rationalism: one based on the complementarity of the Christian faith and reason, another on the scientific method and empirical observation, and the last of which is a virtual denial of reason and reality as such. It has left society without the resources necessary to defend itself from enemies domestic and foreign. (more…)

Blog author: sstanley
Monday, November 23, 2015


Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris

Despite a decline in the number of individuals attending Mass, Catholicism in France is becoming more self-confident and, surprisingly, more orthodox. Writing for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses the Catholic Church in France. He says that France’s néocatholiques are leading change in the European nation:

Perhaps the most evident sign of this sea-change in French Catholicism is what’s called La Manif pour tous. This movement of hundreds of thousands of French citizens emerged in 2012 to contest changes to France’s marriage laws. La Manif’s membership traverses France’s deep left-right fracture. It also includes secular-minded people, many Jews, some Muslims, and even a good number of self-described gays. Yet La Manif’s base and leadership primarily consist of lay Catholics. Though the French legislature passed la loi Taubira legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013, the Socialist government has subsequently trod somewhat more carefully in the realm of social policy. After all, when a movement can put a million-plus people on the streets to protest on a regular basis, French politicians have historical reasons to get nervous.


Radio Free ActonIn this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with John Horvat, author of Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society, about what’s gone wrong with our economy and culture and how to fix it. John’s book was featured this year at Acton University (you can pick up a copy for yourself at the link above), and he writes about his AU experience in this post on his blog:

…the students really cared. It was hard not to be impressed by the unified “diversity” that characterized those in the course. Dispelling the myth that diversity is only on the left, some eighty countries were represented, including sizable delegations from Africa and Latin America. At the same time, people from all ages were enrolled providing that delicate balance between wisdom and enthusiasm. Acton proves year after year that young people are attracted to free markets and moral values.

We also look into the latest on Greece’s financial problems and how Europe is trying to save its common currency, with analysis of the situation by Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg. As he notes, Europe’s economic troubles run much deeper than just the Greek debt crisis.

You can listen to this week’s podcast via the audio player below: