Posts tagged with: gregg


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.


Today Sam Gregg’s article ‘Whither Central Banking?’ appeared in the blog of the Whitherspoon Institute, Public Discourse.  In light of Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s criticism of central banking Gregg takes a thoughtful analysis on improving central banking to help aid our recovery from the financial crisis we currently face.

Gregg addresses an important political question that must be addressed when determining the roles of central banks:

The bigger political question, however, is the place of central banks in democratic political orders. Insulating central banks from excessive political influence reflects recognition of the truth that even in a democracy there are many public-policy decisions that should not be made by legislative or popular votes. Most democracies, for example, embody constitutional limits on the ability of governments and legislatures to interfere with the judiciary’s operations. This is usually derived from awareness that the common good normally requires some separation of powers in order to prevent excessive centralization of power.

Another problem of central banks, argued by Gregg is:

The problem is that when it comes to the economy, governments have legitimate reasons for being concerned about and involved in the development of economic policy. This inevitably raises questions about how to maintain the autonomy of central banks and what ought to constitute the content of that autonomy. Governments committed to pursuing populist and socialist policies have no qualms about dramatically limiting or even abolishing such autonomy.

Gregg does not only address the problems, but he also suggests a solution.  Read more of Gregg’s essay at Public Discourse.

Blog author: jcouretas
Monday, August 6, 2007

Australian blogger Barney Zwartz, writing for the Australian newspaper The Age, tracks down intrepid research director Sam Gregg, who participated in a Melbourne book launching for Catholic Social Teaching and the Market Economy. After noting that “it seems counter-intuitive to me to consider market-theorist heroes such as Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan friends of the poor,” Zwartz asks:

Is Dr Gregg right? Is a market economy the primary tool for addressing poverty, are other economic approaches better, or are there still-deeper issues that underlie the economic? And what about the churches? Vatican teaching on economics in the past century has been socially liberal, endorsing the right to trade unions for example. The churches still play a leading role in welfare, usually with some government funding. (Often this dissatisfies Christians, who think the agencies become hostage to government policy, and non-believers, who feel the churches are an anachronism who should have no role.) Is this partnership a problem? Should the churches do less – or more? Do other faiths have a better approach? What is the morality of welfare, and how does it apply? Should the old notion of the deserving poor regain some purchase or is welfare simply an obligation of a civilised society, as part of which we accept that some people will take unfair advantage? Is poverty an institutional or a personal responsibility – what do you do to help?

Blog author: jballor
Friday, January 5, 2007

Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in California, has a new blog, Mouw’s Musings, and has taken notice of Sam Gregg’s recent Acton Commentary, “Self Interest, Rightly Understood.”

Giving Gregg credit for making “an important point” with which he largely agrees, Mouw goes on to say: “At the same time this also seems to me to be true. People who are not motivated by an intentional desire to promote the common good often do not in fact promote the common good. And people who do aim to promote the common good often do succeed in doing so.”

Thus, because of this second reality, Mouw concludes that there is “a need for discernment on the part of Christians in evaluating various hard-line economic philosophies.” With that point, I heartily agree.

It seems to me, however, that in some ways the point that Mouw engages, that “as individuals pursue profit” there are all sorts of unintended positive consequences, is a rather small claim that does not itself deny Mouw’s second observation. Gregg himself, in fact, writes in the immediately following line, “None of this means that commercial society does not afford opportunities for people to act altruistically.”

It is a valid point for both Mouw and Gregg to make that there is a higher good than pursuit of mere self-interest and one that is consonant with the Christian tradition. That being said, Gregg is concerned making both a more limited and more pointed claim: the good resulting from the secondary virtue of self-interest is still good, and it is even good that is essential for common flourishing.

There shouldn’t be anything controversial about such a claim, especially since it has been held by so many Christian theologians, not least of which is Jonathan Edwards, who distinguished between primary and secondary virtue.

In his treatise on True Virtue, Edwards writes that self-love “is far from being useless in the world” and “exceeding necessary to society, besides its directly and greatly seeking the good of one.” He even says that self-love can be manifest as a sort of “‘negative’ moral goodness,” or “the negation or absence of true moral evil.”

Being that Edwards is concerned to explore the nature of true virtue, rather than this “negative moral goodness,” he doesn’t spend a lot of time examining the implications and social effects of self-love, and that is entirely understandable.

On that score, Edwards’ concern is more like Mouw’s in that he is seeking to describe the highest good. By comparison with Christian benevolence, the virtuous character of secondary or civil good doesn’t match up. Thus, concludes Edwards, “no affection limited to any private system, not dependent on, nor subordinate to Being in general can be of the nature of true virtue.”

But Gregg’s task is different and more limited than either Mouw’s or Edwards’ concern. Gregg is looking primarily at the civic good that self-interest promotes. And its important to realize that neither claim is necessarily inconsistent with the other.

With the publication this month of The Commercial Society – Foundations and Challenges in a Global Age, Samuel Gregg embarks on an exploration of the key foundational elements that must exist within a society for commercial order to take root and flourish. Guided by the thoughts of Alexis de Tocqueville, Gregg studies the challenges that have consistently impeded and occasionally undermined commercial order. This commentary, excerpted from the new book, explains why people who begin to exceed their “immediate needs and acquired responsibilities … begin to develop opportunities to be generous to others.”

Read the full commentary here.