Posts tagged with: Sam Gregg

Pope Francis' trip to the US

“Supporting markets as the economic arrangements most likely to help promote human flourishing doesn’t necessarily mean you accept libertarian philosophical premises” says Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg in an essay published today at Public Discourse.  This comes in response to “Koch Brothers Latest Target: Pope Francis,” an Oct. 14  article written by John Gehring at the American Prospect that claims the Acton Institute is part of a larger network of organizations behind “a decidedly different message than Pope Francis does when it comes to the economy and climate change.”  Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, labels various free-market organizations as “libertarian” and asserts that “libertarian thought … is the exact opposite of Catholic teaching.”

Gregg begins his response by noting some of the contributions that great libertarian thinkers such as Hayek and Mises have made to economics:

Libertarianism’s great strength lies in economics. Prominent twentieth-century libertarian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, made major contributions to the critique of socialist economics. While ridiculed by some at the time, their criticisms turned out to be spot-on.

In Socialism (1922), for example, Mises illustrated that socialist economies can’t replicate the market price system’s ability to signal the supply and demand status for countless goods and services to consumers and producers at any one point in time. However intelligent and statistically equipped the top-down planners might be (whether they take the form of a Communist politburo, a Fascist dictator, or a 1970s British government), they simply cannot know the optimal price for any good or service at any point in time. Any attempt to dictate prices from the top-down will lead, paradoxically, to economic disorder and dysfunction.

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Blog author: jballor
Friday, October 14, 2016
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Maerten de Vos - The temple taxOver at the Libertarian Christian Institute, Jamin Hübner engages my reflection on taxation and Sam Gregg’s book, For God and Profit, with his sed contra: “But what if the ‘taxation is theft’ creed is consistent with both Christian and libertarian ideas, and that all things considered, taxation really is theft? And what if we’re simply misreading or misappropriating the New Testament? This wouldn’t be a comfortable or popular conclusion to draw, but it might be the case nevertheless.”

Hübner accuses me of prooftexting because I take as point of departure for my short reflection (not really an argument, I would say) Paul’s instruction in Romans 13:7, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes.” I don’t properly connect my treatment to Jesus, says Hübner, who is “Paul’s primary source.”

Now if all that was said about paying taxes was that short verse in Romans from Paul, then perhaps Hübner may have a point. And I agree that a full argument and exploration of taxation in Scripture would take into account a good deal more, not only of Scripture but of Christian reception of Scripture. Hübner wants us to account for Jesus in our theology of taxation. I’m fine with that. But I think we would probably need to explore the full scriptural witness, too.

Next, Hübner points out that my prooftexting hermeneutic could likewise be applied to legitimate slavery. If he can find a scriptural text where Paul instructs someone to buy slaves, then I suppose I would have to grant him that point, too. The moral status and treatment of taxation and slavery in the Bible are not exactly equivalent, however. Even if “no NT writer condemned [slavery] outright,” neither did anyone of them instruct Christians positively on this matter, e.g. to acquire slaves. But not only are taxes not condemned outright, there are numerous indications, including Romans 13:7, where paying them is positively mandated.

But perhaps all that is just outdated, contextual instruction relevant for the first century but not now. Hübner promises to examine that in a future installment, and in the meantime you should check out his first part. Whether or not I am prooftexting, I think we can agree that our hermeneutical approaches are quite different.

I wonder whether the taxation issue really is just a symptom, however, as the quote from Rothbard at the end of Hübner’s post might indicate. Isn’t the problem for Hübner really the existence of “violence-based governing authorities,” of which taxation is just one manifestation?
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A new collection of essays titled Christianity and Freedom: Historical Perspectives edited by Samuel Shah and Allen D. Hertzke explores the ways that Christian beliefs and institutions have made contributions to the freedoms that are cherished by both Christians and non-Christians today.

Acton Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently gave his analysis of this new collection of essays in a book review published at Public Discourse.  Gregg begins his review by recognizing that while Christians have played a huge role in bringing about religious freedom there have also been many occasions when Christians have been persecutors.  He says:

Any discussion of freedom and Christianity quickly surfaces the numerous instances in which Christians have undermined human liberty. Reference is invariably made to the various Inquisitions, the witch trials conducted by Puritans, forced conversions, and other instances of intolerance.

A particular strength of this collection of essays is that none of the authors denies that Christians and Christian institutions have on many occasions violated the rightful freedoms of others. This frank acknowledgment, however, is accompanied by an argument that permeates many of the papers: that it was, for the most part, Christianity that provided the moral, theological, and cultural principles upon which Christians and others have drawn to condemn unjust coercion. In other words, people have relied, consciously or otherwise, on Christian resources to identify and correct violations of freedom, including those committed in the name of the Christian faith. This suggests that liberalism by itself did not—and perhaps never could—generate the conceptual tools needed for this type of critique.

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The Reformation in the 1500s was more than a movement started by Martin Luther.  He played a crucial role, but there was more to it.  Samuel Gregg recently reviewed a book for the Library of Law and Liberty that explains the historical significance of Catholic and Protestant reformations.  According to Gregg, Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 written by the Yale historian Carlos M.N. Eire “is likely to become one of the definitive studies of this period.”

The year 1517 is considered one of those historical watersheds—like 1789, 1914, or 1968—at which Western societies took a radical turn away from hitherto prevailing political, economic, cultural, or religious settings. Such shifts, however, never come from nowhere. History’s time-bombs are invariably years in the making. (more…)

RatzingerIn a new article for Public Discourse, Samuel Gregg, the Director of Research at Acton, talks about the “Regensburg Address” and what it means 10 years later.  Benedict XVI’s speech at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006 “managed to identify the inner pathology that is corroding much of the world, how this malignancy emerged, and what can be done to address it.”

According to Gregg, this speech “showed how a collapse of faith in full-bodied conceptions of reason explains so much of our world’s evident disarray.” But the Roman Pontiff didn’t just pull this idea out of nowhere; this is a concept that has been long featured in Joseph Ratzinger’s writings.   Gregg goes on to explain:

For what is at stake, Ratzinger believes, is nothing less than humanity’s ability to know the truth. And if man is defined as not just the one who knows, but as the one who knows that he knows, any faltering in his confidence that human reason can know truth that is more than empirical not only leads to the dead ends of fideism or sentimentalism. It obliterates man’s very distinctiveness. At the same time, recovering this confidence in reason has never, for Ratzinger, been about turning the clock back to a pre-Enlightenment world. In many ways, it’s about saving modernity from itself by opening its mind to the full grandeur of reason and, ultimately, the First Cause from which all else proceeds.

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For God and ProfitBenedikt Koehler, writing for Reaction, recently reviewed Samuel Gregg’s latest, For God and Profit. Koehler is an author whose books and articles focus on the history of economic thought. He starts the review by offering some background on why Gregg’s book is so important, citing events like the financial crisis of 2008 and some of Pope Francis’ critiques of capitalism. Then Koehler begins to dig into some of the details of Gregg’s book:

The book comes in two halves. The first sets out what Christianity in the Middle Ages had to say about business. That period is instructive because it was a time when whatever the church said about anything shaped the way society looked at things. In the second half of the book Gregg sets out a Christian stance for resolving a host of topical financial issues.

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Angel of Mercy and Lady JusticeIn a new essay for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses why it’s dangerous to to overemphasize any one facet of Christian teaching at the expense of a different teaching. No matter what is overemphasized, this will distort the Gospel. The focus of this essay is “mercy” and how mercy leads “to the ultimate source of justice–the God who is love–and thus prevents justice from collapsing into something quite anti-human.”

Gregg describes the three ways mercy can be distorted: as sentimentalism, as injustice, and as mediocrity. When describing mercy as injustice, Gregg warns that “it quickly undermines any coherent conception of justice.”

Back in 1980, John Paul warned in Dives in Misericordia that “In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness” (DM 14). If that sounds tough-minded, that’s because it is. Remember, however, that the Jesus Christ who embodies mercy isn’t the equivalent of a divine stuffed animal. Whenever the Scriptures portray Christ offering mercy to sinners, his forgiveness is always laced with a gentle but clear reminder of the moral law and the expectation that the sinful acts will be discontinued.

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