On October 21st, the Acton Institute celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a dinner at DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The keynote address for the evening was delivered by Acton President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico, who reflected on how the world has changed in the quarter century since he and Kris Mauren founded the Institute, and on what challenges those of us committed to a free and virtuous society face as Acton embarks upon its next twenty-five years. We’re pleased to present the video of Rev. Sirico’s address below.
In last Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Senator Bernie Sanders stayed true to his famed aversion to capitalism, proclaiming the fanciful virtues of “democratic socialism.” Yet when prodded by Anderson Cooper — who asked, “you don’t consider yourself a capitalist?” — Sanders responded not by attacking free markets, but by targeting a more popular target of discontent: Wall Street and the banks.
“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little, by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?” Sanders asked. “No, I don’t.”
One could be forgiven for not understanding what Sanders means by “casino capitalism.” Is it crony capitalism, in which legislative favors are secured by the rich and powerful (which conservatives also disdain)? Is it bailouts for the big banks (which, again, conservatives also disdain)? Is it basic trade and exchange on a large, complex scale, and if so, at what size does it become problematic? Does he despise the stock exchange itself? Too loud with all its blinky lights and bells? (more…)
Several years ago, as a music student in college, I remember hearing constant complaints about “lack of funding for the arts.” Hardly a day would go by without a classmate or professor bemoaning the thin and fickle pockets of the bourgeoisie or Uncle Sam’s lack of artistic initiative.
Little did we know, a shake-up was already taking place, driven by a mysterious mix of newfound prosperity, entrepreneurial innovation, and the market forces behind it. The digital revolution was beginning to level the playing field and drain power from tanks and banks of all kinds, from the Hollywood execs with dollar signs in their eyes to the aesthetically enlightened cronies at the National Endowment for the Arts. Despite the many prophecies of a creative apocalypse, a bottom-up revolution was taking place.
Amid the sea of new technologies and tools that were soon to emerge — streaming music, streaming movies, ebook publishing — crowdfunding rose as a powerful path to creative independence: artistic, economic, and otherwise. Leading the pack is Kickstarter, with success stories abounding, from inventors to thespians to foodies to photographers, and with routine funding results that actually surpass the NEA. (more…)
The Fall 2015 Acton Lecture Series kicked off on September 17 with an address from Donald Devine, Senior Scholar at the Fund for American Studies, and formerly – and most famously – Ronald Reagan’s Director of the Office of Personnel Management, where he earned the nickname “Reagan’s Terrible Swift Sword of the Bureaucracy” from the Washington Post. These days, he spends his time traveling around the country teaching Constitutional Leadership Seminars, and working hard to save the marriage between libertarianism and traditionalism, which he argues is the basis for America’s greatness.
You can view Devine’s presentation below, and be sure to register for upcoming Acton Lecture Series events. They’ll be filling up fast!
What is social justice? Is it a vision of a perfectly just society? Is it an ideal set of government policies? Is it a particular theory or practice? Is it a virtue? A religious concept? A social arrangement?
In a lecture at Acton University on his forthcoming book, Social Justice: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Michael Novak sought to answer some these questions with a particular framework around intermediary institutions.
Offering a broad survey of the term’s origins, history, and modern use and application, Novak countered modern misconceptions of social justice (e.g. as another word for equality), and sought to outline a definition that’s (1) connected to the original understanding, (2) ideologically neutral, and (3) applicable to current circumstances.
Leaning first on Pope Leo XIII for an original understanding, he proceeded to channel Alexis de Tocqueville, describing social justice in terms of our activity in basic, day-to-day associations. This begins with religion, of course, which “dominates our hearts,” he said, without the support of the state, and in turn, transforms our orientations and imaginations toward citizens, institutions, and law. With this as the basic order of things, social justice begins when the individual rightly understands his relation to God, and proceeds to engage with civilization accordingly. (more…)
If one decides to destroy the American Dream, there are a few steps that would be necessary.
- Put Big Government in charge. The average American can’t figure out his or her own dreams, let alone what it would take to make them a reality.
- Tell Americans that without the government, the American Dream is hopeless.
- Produce a lengthy document about the American Dream. Leave out the word “freedom,” let alone the idea of freedom.
- Let people know that “freedom” (without actually using the word) is quite harmful. Don’t worry, thought, Big Government will protect you.
In today’s Acton Commentary, “The Logic of Economic Discrimination,” I take up a small slice of the larger controversy and discussion surrounding religious liberty laws like the one passed recently in Indiana. My point, drawing out some of the implications of observations made by others, including Ryan Anderson and Shikha Dalmia, is that anti-discrimination boycotts depend on discrimination. Or as Dalmia puts it, “what is deeply ironic is that corporate America was able to wield its right not to do business (and boycott Indiana) by circumscribing the same right of Indiana businesses.”
Now there are lots of other angles and significant points to explore surrounding this enormously complex and important debate. Many have criticized the hypocrisy of corporations like Apple for doing business in places like China and Saudi Arabia even while they grandstand against Indiana. Others are now pointing to the actions of many in Silicon Valley, which despite the proclamations of support for social justice, have actually created huge inequalities. Tech centers like Silicon Valley are great, it seems, unless you are a woman, have a family, or are a blue-collar worker.
Indiana politicians, under massive scrutiny, have since moved to “clarify” the RFRA law that was passed, a move that has mollified some but not others. From the beginning, these conversations about religious liberty and economic rights have, in my view, insufficiently included sensitivity to considerations like freedom of association. Hopefully the larger context and interactions of contracts and rights, not merely “religious liberty” narrowly defined, can help broaden and mature the conversation.