From the video vault, a classic presentation by Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, based on his monograph The Entrepreneurial Vocation.
In the final installment of a three-part interview with Patheos, Joseph E. Gorra interviews Acton Institute president and co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico about social justice and his interpretation of its right societal implementation. In the interview, Sirico outlines some of the principles highlighted in his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. To begin, Gorra asks Sirico about the proper interaction between politics, specifically economics, and religion. What follows is an intriguing discussion on faith-based activism and the origins of the term “social justice”:
Gorra: You are making some important distinctions here, which perhaps also have some cash-value when discussing ‘social justice.’ For it is often conceptualized with wealth distributionist and equalitarian notions. Why is that a mistake, and is there an older (pre-Rawlsian), more robust concept of social justice that can be recovered?
Sirico: The term “social justice” originates with 19th-century Italian Catholic thinkers who were trying to apply the Church’s teaching on the nature of justice and the common good to the post-Enlightenment, post-mercantilist world. In many ways, it is a synonym for “the common good,” which are the conditions that must exist in a given society if people are to be able to freely pursue human flourishing. In that sense, it is not value-neutral—as Rawls more-or-less tries to be—nor can it be reduced to efforts to equalize everything by eliminating differences or vast exercises in wealth-redistribution. Indeed, if you read some of the Italian writers on this subject—Blessed Antonio Rosmini being a good example—you discover that one of the things which they were trying to do was to remind individuals and communities that they also have responsibilities to their neighbor, and that they cannot and should not expect the state to do everything in this regard.
The “social” of social justice did not translate for them into a vast impersonal welfare state; rather, it was primarily about people fulfilling their responsibilities in justice to their neighbor in the circumstances they found themselves, with the state playing a subsidiary role.
Read “What if ‘Social Justice’ Demands Small Government?: Interview with Robert Sirico, Part 3″ on the Patheos Evangelical Channel. Part one: “Is Capitalism Immoral” and part two: “Does Capitalism Promote Greed” are also available online.
In a follow up interview to “Is Capitalism Immoral?,” Joseph E. Gorra on the Patheos Evangelical channel talks with Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute president and co-founder, about the publication of his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Gorra begins the interview by observing that “within Western societies today there appears to be a kind of fact/value dichotomy that operates as an assumption in much of our discourse, where questions of ‘economics’ (and the sciences in general) are in the category of knowledge and facts and therefore tend to trump questions of theology.”
Patheos: The dichotomous fact/value assumption also stunts our comprehension of what is true.
Sirico: It’s also true that some economists become hegemonic in thinking that the whole of truth is seen through their particular lens of expertise, rather than appreciating the immense complexity of humanity and situating their part of the truth within the broader truth of who the human person is. But that’s not just a problem for some economists—scientism infects almost every discipline that has a strong empirical element.
It would be humorous, if it were not tragic, when one becomes so blinded by the subjectivism of such relativism that they accuse others of what they themselves are infected with. What I am trying to do is broaden our comprehension of the truth that permeates everything—in the case of my book, how the economic can be seen to emerge from a reflection of human nature and empower us to do the good intentionally.
Read “Does Capitalism Promote Greed?: An Interview with Father Robert Sirico, Part 2″ on the Patheos Evangelical channel.
David Paul Deavel has a fine review of Rev. Robert Sirico’s Defending the Free Market over at National Review Online.
What makes Sirico’s defense of a free economy all the stronger is his consistent acknowledgment that a functioning free market neither immanentizes the eschaton, making heaven on earth, nor makes a society virtuous or whole. Freedom of economic (and other) action is not the goal of society — acting virtuously in freedom is. And the intellectual and spiritual resources for virtuous action do not inhere in markets themselves. In his chapter on why state-sponsored health care is not really a compassionate answer, he writes against “the seduction that the power of economic freedom can in itself generate a system of health care marked by honesty and love.” Economic freedom must be accompanied by other kinds of freedom, particularly religious, and by people thinking about their duties toward the sick, the dying, and the poor. Homo economicus may be a useful abstraction for certain economics problems, but the human capital of love, loyalty, and sacrifice is the kind of capital required for a successful capitalism.
Read the entire review at National Review Online.
On the Patheos Evangelical channel, Joseph E. Gorra talks to Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute president and co-founder, about the publication of his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Gorra frames the interview with this question: “Countless detractors over the years have argued that capitalism is intrinsically immoral. Is it true?”
Patheos: As you know, “capitalism” and “free markets” often invoke all sorts of various (even contradictory) images and ideas for different people. I want to start by having you articulate what it is that you are defending in this book in order to help readers break through some of the “noise” that’s out there on this topic.
Sirico: The word “capitalism” itself has Marxist connotations and is, to my mind, too narrow for the free economy I am talking about. Every sort of state or crony capitalist venture gets to use the name capitalism, and I am as suspicious of corporate welfare as I am for other kinds of welfare—and for many of the same reasons.
Patheos: What would be a better way to nuance “capitalism”?
Sirico: I really find helpful Blessed John Paul II’s delineation between what might be called “capitalisms” in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus where he says that the kind of “capitalism” which should replace the collapsed Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and recommended to the developing world ought to be one “which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property, and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector…” but then he is quick to add, “even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy,” “market economy,” or simply “free economy” (see Centesimus Annus, no. 42). Such an expression of human liberty, grounded in ethical and religious tradition—especially natural law reasoning—and circumscribed by law, is to my mind, the best we can get on earth. This approach is neither libertine nor anarchistic.
Read “Is Capitalism Immoral? An Interview with Father Robert Sirico” on the Patheos Evangelical channel.
In The Daily Caller, Rev. Robert A. Sirico is interviewed by Ginni Thomas about a graphic in the March/April edition of the radical magazine Adbusters mocks people who throw off all moral restraint in the pursuit of wealth.
Adbusters is an anti-capitalist magazine founded by Marxist Kalle Lasn and was instrumental in fueling the similarly anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.
“You notice that they are precisely the ones who don’t tell us what personal responsibilities we have,” Rev. Sirico said. “They make abstract all of our obligations: It’s the obligation of the people, the obligation of the state, the obligation of some general mass of something-or-other.”
Read “Rev. Robert Sirico on the cultural left’s lack of ethics” in The Daily Caller. To see the extended 27-minute version of the video, go here.
Get your copy of Rev. Sirico’s new book Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy today. (more…)
Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico continues to promote Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy on radio and television across the country. Yesterday, Father Robert spent a full broadcast hour with Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon:
And if you missed it, here’s Father Robert’s appearance from yesterday on Your World With Neil Cavuto on the Fox News Channel:
UPDATE: Here’s the audio from Father Robert’s interview last night on the Hugh Hewitt Show:
Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico continues to promote Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy on radio and television across the country; today’s roundup of media includes two radio interviews on west coast radio stations, starting with host Brian Sussman on the KSFO Morning Show in San Francisco, California:
Next came a trip up the coast to Medford, Oregon and the Bill Meyer Show on KMED:
Keep checking back for more clips here on the PowerBlog; we’ll post them as we can find them.
On FoxNews.com, Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at the recent anti-capitalism, anti-NATO protests in Chicago:
In countless debates and conversations with modern proponents of social justice, I have noticed that they are less interested in justice than in material equality. They borrow the language of justice and the common good but have either forgotten or rejected the classical meanings of those terms.
In the classical tradition of reflection on justice (especially seen in Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and their intellectual descendants) it is clear that inequality—in the sense of unequal wealth or social status—is mostly compatible with justice, because justice is “to give to each his due.”
What one is due, of course, differs from person to person—in addition to those things due everyone: life, dignity, and liberty for example.
When we speak of the idea of the common good, we need to be open-minded about the most likely way to bring it about. The common good is, after all, a range of conditions, not a set of policies. It cannot be achieved by way of the “commonality of goods” proposed by socialists, but rather through the institutions that the socialists worked so hard to discredit.
Read “There is no ‘social justice’ without economic freedom” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico on FoxNews.com.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, continues to make appearances in the media to promote his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.
Today’s appearances include an guest spot this morning on the voice of the Mid-Ohio Valley, WMOV, on WMOV Live with Greg Gack:
Father Robert was also in-studio today with G. Gordon Liddy, broadcasting nationwide from Washington, D.C.:
You’ll also be able to listen to Rev. Sirico this afternoon at 5:00 on WLCR AM in Louisville, Kentucky, on the Mike Janocik Show, and be sure to tune in tonight on EWTN for Father Robert’s appearance on The World Over with Raymond Arroyo.