Posts tagged with: john templeton

News from the Acton Institute:

Grand Rapids, Mich. (October 22, 2010) – The Acton Institute won first place in the Ethics and Values category in the 2010 Templeton Freedom Awards for Excellence in Promoting Liberty competition. The award, managed by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, recognized Acton for its production of film documentaries that “communicate the principles and values of individual liberty and a free society.”

Atlas cited Acton for “first-rate documentaries designed to communicate the importance of virtue, limited government, and free enterprise to general audiences. They have impressed the judges through two of their very successful documentaries, The Call of the Entrepreneur and The Birth of Freedom,” which have “attracted attention from U.S. media, public policy institutes around the world, and even education ministers in Eastern Europe.”

This is the fourth Templeton Freedom award for Acton. The Institute also won an award in 2007 in the Free Market Solutions to Poverty category for its “Don’t Just Care, Think!” campaign; in 2005 in the Excellence in Promoting Liberty category for its Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conferences; and in 2004 in the Ethics and Values category for “its extensive body of work on the moral defense of the free market.”

Acton shared the 2010 Ethics & Values award with the Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad (CEDICE) in Venezuela which won for its initiative, “A Country of Owners.” The project promotes awareness in Venezuelans of one of the most basic human rights, which is the right to own property. The purpose of “A Country of Owners” is to encourage ideas and actions in favor of individual private property through educational activities. The initiative has been called “a courageous and timely response to the events in Venezuela” as well as a “beacon in the growing darkness of Venezuela.”

Exceptional think tanks from 10 countries have been recognized by the 2010 Templeton Freedom Awards for Excellence in Promoting Liberty for their accomplishments in advancing freedom. Representing three continents, the 16 recipients were chosen from over 132 applications from 48 countries by an independent panel of expert judges.
Named after the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the Templeton Freedom Award was established in 2003 and is the largest international prize program that celebrates think tank contributions to the understanding of freedom. The Templeton Freedom Awards program has awarded more than $1.5 million in prizes and grants in the past 7 years. This year’s awards program grants a $10,000 prize to each winner.

The Awards include eight different categories including Free Market Solutions to Poverty, Social Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Values, Student Outreach, Initiative in Public Relations, Innovative Media, and Awards for Special Achievement by a University-based Center and by a Young Institute.

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation has supported a worldwide network of independent think tanks that promote a society of free and responsible individuals for nearly three decades. Atlas, based in Washington, currently works with more than 400 partners in 84 countries. More than half of these organizations were assisted in their formative years by Atlas through financial support or advisory services.

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg contributed this piece to today’s Acton News & Commentary. Sign up here for the free, weekly email newsletter.

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Humility in a Time of Recession

By Samuel Gregg

Since 2008, there has been much discussion about the contribution of unethical behavior to our present economic circumstances. Whether it was borrowers’ lying on mortgage-applications or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s politically-driven lending policies, there seems to be some consciousness that non-economic factors played a role in facilitating what we already call the Great Recession.

Unfortunately evidence is emerging that some people have learned nothing. A recent report, for example, commissioned by the Wall Street Journal illustrates that “losses from mortgage fraud—ranging from falsified credit reports to identity theft—rose 17% last year after declining 57% in the two years after its 2006 peak.”

Of course wider adherence to ethical norms against lying and stealing won’t solve every economic problem. There are heavy technical dimensions to many economic dilemmas which require technical solutions. Nor does every policy-error constitute a moral failure.

Nevertheless those making economic decisions are human beings, and our virtues and vices do shape our purchasing, selling and policy choices. Many such virtues could be highlighted, but one needing extra-attention today is humility.

The word “humility” derives from the Latin humilitas. This in turn comes from humus which means earth or soil, but is also related to homō, meaning man. For the Greeks and Romans, the word underscored the idea that humans are not God or gods. Likewise for the Jews and early Christians, humility was about remembering that humans are fallible creatures who come from and return to the earth: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Some first millennium Christian writers, such as St. John Chrysostom, even described humility as the mother of the virtues, as it prevented vanity from corrupting every other virtue.

So how might a renewed embrace of humility help us to rethink our approach to contemporary economic life?

In the case of consumers, a good dose of humility might well encourage some acceptance that the meaning of life is not simple and is certainly not to be found in how many material things we possess, as important as wealth can be in helping us to live dignified lives. To this extent, greater humility might temper the “I-want-it-all-right-now” mentality that helped generate such high household-debt levels in America and Europe.

Likewise, businesses could benefit from a renewed appreciation of humility. The financial wizard the late Sir John Templeton once wrote that humility was crucial if business was to maintain the open-mindedness that is essential to successful entrepreneurship rather than rest upon their past glories. To this we might add the insight of another prominent entrepreneur, François Michelin, that humility helps business leaders in a market economy remember that the customers are the real masters. More humble business-leaders would also be less-inclined to succumb to the “Masters-of-the-Universe” hubris that helped destroy any number of banks in 2008.

Speaking of hubris, humility also has a role to play in encouraging mainstream economists to accept economics’ limits as a science and acknowledge that not everything about markets can be explained by mathematical models that were supposed to fail only once in a million years. As George Mason University professor of economics Russ Roberts has wisely observed, while “facts and evidence still matter”, economists “should face the evidence that we are no better today at predicting tomorrow than we were yesterday.”

But perhaps those who could do with the biggest bout of humility during recessions are politicians and governments. If the Great Recession has taught us anything, it is that governments should admit many economic problems are beyond their control, and that any claim by politicians to be able to “manage” trillion-dollar economies is arrogant nonsense.

Instead politicians should be modest enough to concede that (1) the seemingly disorderly process of market exchange resolves many challenges that governments cannot; and (2) government overreach invariably causes new problems. Here they would do well to read Adam Smith’s famous warning concerning the “man of system” who “is apt to be very wise in his own conceit, and is so often enamored with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it.”

The fear of the Lord, the Bible says, is the beginning of wisdom. Contrary to received opinion, this verse has nothing to do with frightening people into religious belief. Instead it reminds each of us that we are not the center of the universe and that the sooner we grasp this, the wiser our choices will be. All of us—consumers, business-leaders, and politicians—need to be sufficiently humble to reassess our actions in a time of recession, acknowledge our errors, and then live out the necessary correctives.

To this extent, the virtue of humility may well be a key to understanding our pre-recessionary past and a way of illuminating our path to a better and more economically-prosperous future.

Dr. Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, and Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy.

Sir John TempletonSir John Templeton, the great entrepreneur and philanthropist, passed away on July 8, 2008. Fr. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, marks his passing with this tribute:

It was with great sadness that I learned today of the passing from this life of one of the twentieth-century’s great stalwarts in the struggle for faith and liberty. Rising from a humble background in Tennessee, John Templeton graduated from Yale and Oxford universities, the latter of which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He went on to become one of the most-successful investors of his generation, creating wealth and generating employment for thousands of individuals. Today the very name “Templeton” remains a byword for entrepreneurship, prudent risk-taking, integrity, and innovation in the financial industry in America and around the world.

Read Rev. Robert Sirico’s tribute to Sir John Marks Templeton (1912-2008): A Great Entrepreneur and Philanthropist.