The Great Society only made things worse, says Acton’s co-founder and executive director, Kris Mauren. He gave the final lecture during Northwood’s University’s series, “The Great Society at 50.” Mauren’s talk, titled “Alternatives to the Great Society,” argued that the programs of the Great Society have likely exacerbated issues of poverty and created a “culture of dependency.” A recent article from Midland Daily News summarizes this lecture:
“I am not suggesting we do nothing, but what we are doing isn’t working,” Mauren said. “We need a new paradigm.”
Before Johnson declared war on poverty, society had already created citizen associations.
“Society organized itself to meet needs,” Mauren said. “Fraternal societies helped to care for members.”
These societies helped people with medical care, among other things, and assisted those in short-term need.
At times when large-scale crises occur “that is the exact time for charity… it is appropriate for the government to step in,” Mauren said.
In a talk titled, “From Divine Right to Human Rights: The Foundations of Rights in the Modern World,” I attempted to trace the development of the concept of “rights” in the West historically, from the ancient world to modern times. A corollary purpose was to show the students that liberty and religion are not inimical or diametrically opposed.
Shawn Ritenour, a faculty presenter at last month’s Acton University, pursues a similar purpose in a recent post at his blog, Foundations of Economics (after his book of the same name. Timothy Terrell reviews Ritenour’s book in issue 13.2 of the Journal of Markets & Morality). Ritenour writes, “While it is true that many non-believers embrace and promote the free society and many libertarians despise Christ[, i]t does not follow, however, that Christianity and liberty have nothing to do with one another.” He goes on to provide some more resources for this point, particularly arguing that “a close study of God’s Word reveals that social institutions that promote liberty are positively mandated.”
Human rights are one of these social institutions that promote liberty and are positively mandated by the Bible. In my presentation at the Northwood seminar, I drew on some resources from the Acton film, The Birth of Freedom. In particular, I shared this video featuring John Witte Jr. that addresses the question, “How Has Judaism Contributed to Human Rights?”
As Lord Acton puts it, in ancient Israel “the throne was erected on a compact; and the king was deprived of the right of legislation among a people that recognised no lawgiver but God, whose highest aim in politics was to restore the original purity of the constitution, and to make its government conform to the ideal type that was hallowed by the sanctions of heaven.”