As news of the Panama Papers scandal continues to break, Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has been making the media rounds to help people understand what appears to have happened and why. Sam made two appearances on radio yesterday, first on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show, speaking with guest host Ed Morrissey of HotAir.com; later in the afternoon he spoke with Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon. The audio of both interviews is posted below.
A lack of reason may lead to violence and an inability to respond to crises, but that didn’t stop the West from abandoning it. In a new article for the Catholic World Report, Acton’s Samuel Gregg reflects on Pope Benedict XVI and his 2006 address near Regensburg, Germany. “Ten years later,” Gregg laments, the West is “still in denial.”
On September 12, 2006 Benedict made global news with his lecture–his words enraged, gained support, and were analyzed countless times. The speech was concerned with the “deep problems of faith and reason that characterize the West and Christianity today,” particularly in relation to Islam. Despite causing great controversy, this speech is considered to be one of the most important papal addresses on world affairs. Benedict argued that our understanding of the divine ultimately creates the foundation for how we view and “can judge particular human choices and actions to be unreasonable.” Gregg continues:
Most commentators on the Regensburg Address did not, however, observe that the Pope declined to proceed to engage in a detailed analysis of why and how such a conception of God may have affected Islamic theology and Islamic practice. Nor did he explore the mindset of those Muslims who invoke Allah to justify jihadist violence. Instead, Benedict immediately pivoted to discussing the place of reason in Christianity and Western culture more generally. In fact, in the speech’s very last paragraph, Benedict called upon his audience “to rediscover” the “great logos”: “this breadth of reason” which, he maintained, orthodox Christianity has always regarded as a prominent feature of God’s nature. The pope’s use of the word “rediscover” indicated that something had been lost and that much of the West and the Christian world had themselves fallen into the grip of other forms of un-reason. Irrationality can, after all, manifest itself in expressions other than mindless violence.
Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg reviews a new book at the Library of Law and Liberty that demolishes the canard that religious figure were “somehow opposed holus bolus to Enlightenment ideas is one that has been steadily discredited over the last 50 years.” In his review of The Catholic Enlightenment: The Forgotten History of a Global Movement by by Ulrich L. Lehner, Gregg points out that the new book shows how “the Enlightenment argument for freedom was embraced by many Catholic Enlighteners.”
One of Lehner’s central themes is that the roots of Catholic Enlightenment thought are to be found in that most reforming of Church councils: the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Trent’s impact in terms of clarifying church dogmas and doctrines, curbing laxity among the clergy, implementing an extensive seminary and university reform program, and propelling the rise of dynamic religious orders (to name just a few changes) is hard to underestimate. Trent facilitated the development of a thoroughly orthodox, intellectually rigorous, and disciplined clergy; a renewed emphasis upon addressing social and economic problems; a repudiation of superstitious customs; and, perhaps most significantly, an emphasis that lay people were also called to holiness. This idea pervades, for instance, Saint Francis de Sales’ immensely influential Introduction to the Devout Life (1609).
Trent was therefore about improvement. And comprehensive efforts to better the human condition was a central leitmotif of the various Enlightenments and one to which, Lehner shows, many Catholics were naturally well-disposed. In some areas, such as enhancing women’s legal status and education, it turns out that Catholic reformers were well ahead of their Protestant and more secular-minded counterparts. (more…)
Despite Greece being the current poster child for sovereign debt, national debt crises are nothing new and won’t be going away anytime soon. Governments habitually solicit capital loans only to default. In a new article for Public Discourse, Samuel Gregg discusses not only Greece, but also some of the deeper issues surrounding sovereign debt crises. He asks:
What is the most reasonable framework through which governments should try to address such matters? Should they try to resolve them through appeals to necessity and pragmatism? Or should they seek more principled approaches that take justice seriously? If so, where may such methods be found?
When facing these financial woes, governments often turn to–what some would consider–justifiable, but unethical solutions:
We’ve had a burst of media activity this week; let’s round up some of Acton’s activity on the airwaves:
Monday, February 15
Todd Huizinga, Acton’s Director of International Outreach, joined the FreedomWorks podcast to discuss his newly released book The New Totalitarian Temptation: Global Governance and the Crisis of Democracy in Europe.
Tuesday, February 16
Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, is a native of Flint, Michigan, and recently spent some time in his hometown. WJR Radio in Detroit turned to him for a native’s perspective on the water crisis, and what his thoughts are on the cause of the crisis and the way forward for the city.
Wednesday, February 17
Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Rob Schilling on WINA Radio’s The Schilling Show in Charlottesville, Virginia, in order to discuss the economic proposals of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Gregg argues that Trump, far from being a champion of free markets, actually promotes mercantilist policies that will result in more crony capitalism. According to Gregg, voters are right to be angry at the state of politics and the economy in the US, but Trump’s proposed solutions will only make the situation worse.
We’re anticipating more interviews to come this week, and we’ll share them with you here on the PowerBlog. Stay tuned.
Being “pro business” doesn’t necessarily mean “pro free markets.” Reality TV star and wannabe Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump reminds us of this. Writing for The Stream, Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, argues that not only does Trump seem to be a mercantilist, but, if implemented, this medieval economic system would weaken the United States.
What exactly is mercantilism? This system was popular between the 1500s and 1700s and was particularly good to government officials and their allies in the business world. Gregg explains:
At the core of mercantilism were two things. The first was cozy relationships between certain business leaders and the government. The second was the extensive use of tariffs, quotas and even bans on certain imports to protect domestic manufacturers. Mercantilists wanted to limit competition (particularly from foreigners) rather than embrace competition as a discipline that helped companies and countries discover and develop what they did best in terms of low-costs and high-returns relative to everyone else.
In addition to our regular slate of articles examining the intersections between faith, freedom, markets, and morality, this issue contains the text of the Theology of Work Consultation symposium at the 2014 conference of the Evangelical Theological Society. The subject was “The Economics of the Theological Vocation.” The entire symposium, as well as executive editor Jordan J. Ballor’s editorial on the subject, is open access.
In addition, associate editor Hunter Baker’s review essay on Kevin M. Kruse’s One Nation Under God and Timothy E. W. Gloege’s Guaranteed Pure is also open access. In it, Baker seeks to answer the question, “Is Christian America Invented? And Why Does It Matter?”
One last highlight: We are pleased to include a republication of a rare 1941 essay by German economist Wilhelm Röpke, “A Value Judgment on Value Judgments.” Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute and a scholar of Röpke’s work, authored the introduction, “A Value Judgment on ‘A Value Judgment on Value Judgments.'”
Read the entire issue here.
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