Posts tagged with: Prime Minister

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Australian P.M. Tony Abbott

Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently wrote a special report, Finally, a Conservative Leader over at The American Spectator. Last year, a reporter asked Gregg who the current “outstanding center-right head of government” is. He responded that Margaret Thatcher was his first thought, though Australian Prime Minister “Tony Abbott is the real thing like no one since Margaret Thatcher.”  He goes on, “thus far Abbott has matched his open adherence to distinctly conservative convictions by implementing policies that reflect those principles.”

Gregg discusses Abbott further:

Elected prime minister in September last year, Abbott is in many respects the left’s nightmare come true. For one thing, he’s a practicing Catholic, who, though he doesn’t draw attention to his faith, is generally associated in people’s minds with the Church’s conservative wing. Among other brickbats, that’s earned him (rather sectarian) epithets such as the “mad monk.”

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Abbott

Newly Elected Australian Prime Minister: Tony Abbott

On Saturday, Tony Abbott, a member of the Liberal-National Coalition,  was elected prime minister of Australia despite being considered “too religious, too conservative and too blunt” to win a national election. Turns out, he’s an admirer of the work of Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg (Australian born). In 2001, Abbott addressed the role of government in alleviating poverty and reducing unemployment in an issue of Policy Magazine, in a special feature titled, “Against the Prodigal State.” He begins:

The story of the rich young man who was told that perfection meant selling all he had and giving the proceeds to the poor has echoed through Western culture for 2000 years and still haunts debate over welfare policy. Anything that can be sold as ‘generosity’ always seems to hold the moral high ground—even when it turns out to be the kindness which kills. Well-meaning people tend to assume that virtue in individuals is also best practice for governments. Going further, others seem to think that government programmes can substitute for personal responsibilities in a kind of ‘outsourcing’ of moral action from the individual to a prodigal state. Under this ‘social gospel’, political activism becomes more important than visiting the sick or helping a neighbour in need.

He explains the distinction between “ordinary and heroic virtue and the difference between what can be required of people under the law and what might be urged of people in a higher cause.” He goes on:

As commentators such as Samuel Gregg and Michael Novak have pointed out, there is a sharp distinction between private virtue and public duty. The key problem with governments giving ‘their all’ to the poor is that what they have is not their own. The resources of government are collected from citizens, most of whom are far from rich. Governments need to be careful about being compassionate with other people’s money lest they demonstrate not civic virtue but moral vanity. Government giving has none of the ‘going without’ quality of personal charity because the politicians and officials who give are not giving what’s theirs.
Addressing the issues of unemployment, Abbott says,
the most significant compassion anyone can show for the unemployed is to provide work, boost encouragement to work and improve the employability of job seekers. Government programmes that don’t involve an element of self-help patronise the unemployed and can easily end up reinforcing a sense of failure and victimhood… Government agencies are much better at delivering an identical service to whole populations than meeting the specific needs of individual people.
Samuel Gregg address these themes in his latest book, Tea Party Catholic which is now available for pre-order.

On October 5, 2011, Acton welcomed John Blundell, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, to deliver a lecture as part of the 2011 Acton Lecture Series. His address was entitled “Lessons from Margaret Thatcher,” and provided insight into the Iron Lady from a man who had known Thatcher well before she became the Prime Minister of Great Britain. You can watch his lecture below.

“You’ve lost a good opportunity to shut up.” So said French president Nicolas Sarkozy to UK prime minister David Cameron as an instance of what BusinessWeek has dubbed “Europe’s Insult Diplomacy.” But it’s a retort that strikes me as equally relevant for the pontifications that pour forth from ecumenical officials in Geneva on almost every topic under the sun.

The latest instance of imprudence in the cause of desperately seeking relevance is the claim from Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), that the reformer John Calvin “would have been in the streets of New York or London with a placard,” joining the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I explore the dynamics of what I call the “ecumenical-industrial complex” in my book released last year, Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church’s Social Witness. One of the points I make in the book is that ecumenical officials like Nyomi cannot seem to resist the opportunity to weigh in on contemporary political and economic issues as if there is a single, univocal, and absolute Christian position.

The claim that Calvin and OWS are kindred is precisely the kind of obfuscatory rhetoric that we don’t need from ecclesiastical representatives, whether at the congregational, denominational, or ecumenical level. On the constructive side, in Ecumenical Babel I make the case that the ecumenical movement, rather than making absurd claims akin to that of Calvin and OWS, might “decline to issue doctrinaire and casuistical proclamations about this or that particular policy. Instead, the ecumenical movement would understand its role in this sphere to provide broad guidance rather than particular judgments.”

The upshot of such a change would be that “the ecumenical movement’s social witness would place correspondingly less emphasis on direct political engagement and advice…and correspondingly greater emphasis on providing moral guidance to the church.” As opposed to saying that JC (whether John Calvin or Jesus Christ) “would have been in the streets of New York or London,” as Nyomi claims, instead “the character of ecumenical statements on social issues…would be far more restrained and chastened than we find today.”

But as long as the mainline ecumenical movement continues to conflate unity with unanimity on particular social questions, don’t expect reform to happen anytime soon.