The Acton Institute is branching out into the technology sector with its new Acton branded flash drives.
We initially offered these drives to attendees of Acton University where they were received with cheers from bloggers and others who still remember—with a shudder—the horrors of the old 3½ floppies (remember the good old “tape hack” you could use to trick your computer into thinking that it was a DD and not an HD disk?) and even the ginormous 5¼ floppies.
These USB2.0 flash drives hold a handy 1Gb of your favorite portable files, be they MP3s, photos from your recent vacation, or documents for school or work. Just plug one into a USB port (2.0 preferred) on your computer and you’re good to go!
Buy the Acton USB Flash Drive ($20.00 USD) today at the Acton BookShoppe, and support the pursuit of a free and virtuous society.
Shankar Vedantam on the problems of “social” governmental intervention, including increased moral hazard (HT: Arts and Letters Daily):
While it seems like common sense to pump money into an economy that is pulling the bedcovers over its head, the problem with most social interventions is that they target not robots and machines but human beings — who regularly respond to interventions in contrarian, paradoxical and unpredictable ways.
Too true. So much for homo economicus. I might also add that the unpredictability, or should I say spontaneity, of human reactions in all kinds of situations is pretty strong evidence for the reality of free choice and against mechanical determinism.
Update – Tuesday, 5:00 PM: The full menu of lecture recordings is now available. We’ll likely post some video of the evening speakers as well sometime this week. Enjoy!
It’s hard to believe, but AU 2008 has come to a close. From a staff perspective, it’s a strange feeling after a week of nonstop running (and in my case, sweating) to realize that, by golly, I don’t have any lectures to record tomorrow!
A hearty thanks goes out to all of this year’s participants from around the world, as does a fond farewell. A big part of what makes AU great is the quality of the people who come to Grand Rapids for a week in order to engage the big ideas that are presented in the lectures below. We hope to see many of you back in 2009.
And I’d be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the amazing work of Kara Eagle and her army of staff and interns, without whom the impossible task of planning, organizing, and actually putting on AU would remain impossible.
Tuesday, June 10
- Thoughts on Human Dignity – Rev. Robert A. Sirico
Wednesday, June 11
- Economic Thought Before the Enlightenment – Dr. Stephen Grabill
- Traditionalist Economics: A Critique – Jeffrey Tucker
- Wealth and Poverty in Scripture – Dr. Jonathan Witt
- Enemies of the Inner City – Ismael Hernandez
- The Limits of Markets: Law and Moral Culture – Fr. Peter Laird
- Civil Rights and Social Cooperation – Rev. Robert A. Sirico
- Tensions in 18th Century Social Thought – Michael Miller
- The Economic Way of Thinking – Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
- Christianity and the Idea of Limited Government – Michael Miller
- Myths About the Market – Dr. Jay Richards
- Why Keynesianism Failed – Dr. Victor Claar
- 19th Century Christian Political Thought – Dr. Carlos Hoevel
Thursday, June 12
- A Theology of Stewardship – Dr. Stephen Grabill
- The Catholic Social Encyclical Tradition – Kishore Jayabalan
- Market Economics and the Family – Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
- Economics and Human Action – Dr. Carlos Hoevel
- A Biblical Approach to the Environment – Dr. Jay Richards
- Islam, Markets, and the Free Society – Mustafa Akyol
- Beyond Contracts: Marriage and Sustainable Markets – Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
- The Social Teaching of John Paul II – Fr. Roger Landry
- The Nature and Function of Money – Jeffrey Tucker
- A Theology of Market Capitalism – Lord Brian Griffiths
Friday, June 13
- The Ethics of Capital and Interest – Jeffrey Tucker
- Europe: The Future of the Social Market – Christof Zellenberg
- Latin America: Challenges and Opportunities – Dr. Carlos Hoevel
- Liberation Theology – Rev. Robert A. Sirico
- Christianity, International Law, International Institutions – Kishore Jayabalan
- The Bad News About the Prosperity Gospel – Rev. John Nunes
- Poverty in the Developing World – Michael Miller
- Business as a Moral Enterprise – John Beckett
- Divorce: Social and Economic Consequences – Fr. Paul Hartmann
- Healthcare and Markets – Grace Marie Turner
- Piety and Technique – Rev. Robert A. Sirico
The problem is not unique to Canada, nor entirely absent from the US, but our neighbors to the north seem to be doing their best at the moment to lead the so-called free world in denying what Americans call the First Amendment rights (speech, religion, etc.). In fact, the Canadian government’s quashing of the expression of opinion—executed through its “human rights commission”—is downright frightening. It is trite to describe this kind of thing as Orwellian, but that’s what it is.
In Canada and elsewhere, the unpopular opinions most in danger of being declared verboten tend to revolve around two issues: Islam and homosexuality.
This recent piece by David Warren in the Ottawa Citizen recounts some other cases, equally disturbing, which have gone less remarked.
We had a very active week on the blogosphere during this year’s Acton University. The daily round-ups are linked below, as well as updated links to summary and reflective posts written after the conference’s completion. Many of our bloggers have been inspired to produce a series of reactions in the days and weeks following this year’s events.
- Troy Camplin at Interdisciplinary World,
- “Acton U. — A Brief Summary (and Table of Future Contents).” Troy concludes, “Even if the sessions weren’t as great as they were, it would have been worth going just to meet all the people I met.”
- “Thoughts on Human Dignity (Sirico).”
- “What is Freedom For?”
- “Against Nominalism.”
- “A Few Thoughts on Reason.”
- Robbie Miller at Toss me another Dewiser,
- “Subsidiarity and Serving the Poor.” Robbie promises to offer a series of upcoming posts related to AU.
- Brittany Hunter at Behind Infinity,
- “Acton University, An Inside Perspective.” Brittany, a recently-hired Acton Institute employee, provides an “insider’s” look at the goings-on last week.
- Anthony Bradley at The Institute,
- “Acton University.” Dr. Bradley gives us a brief AU faculty perspective.
- Jay Lafayette at the Shotgun Blog at the Western Standard,
- “Rent Control means less affordable housing for the poor.” Jay writes about the “healthy dose of free-market thinking” he got from this year’s AU, highlighting talks by Lord Brian Griffiths and Jay Richards.
- Anneli at Off the Coast of Kansas,
- Brett Kunkle and Alan Shlemon at the Stand to Reason blog,
- “Do Evangelicals Think About Economics?” Brett says AU “was fantastic training and an area where Evangelicals need to give more attention.”
- “Another Plug for Acton.” Alan writes, “Acton is an excellent organization to help broaden the minds of Christians in the area of economics and our Christian faith.”
- AU08 Blogger Round-Ups,
If you’ve posted your thoughts on Acton University 2008 and we haven’t noted it above, kindly drop us a line in the comment boxes below.
The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hosted 183 governments at a three day summit in Rome, from June 3-5. World leaders tried to find possible solutions in order to tackle the recent food crisis which has already caused hunger and civil unrest in several developing countries. Jacques Diouf Director General of FAO asked for $30 billion a year in extra financing to the United Nations needed to address world hunger threatening 862 million people.
Despite international efforts and estimates, the situation appears to be far more complex and certainly requires more than just a call for greater funding and a return to discredited subsistence economies. There is an alarming “silence” on what has contributed to this crisis and on what possible solutions already exist and can be found in Catholic social teaching.
The market economy, for instance, should not be looked upon with suspicion of greed and pure self-interest. Instead, the market economy has defeated poverty and paved the way for democracy, the promotion of human dignity, all important values of Christian social thought. It should, therefore, be considered as a resource used to fight corruption and misgovernment part of many developing countries affected by this crisis.
New solutions are, likewise, urgently required. Archbishop Silvano Tommasi, head of the Holy See’s office to the U.N. in Geneva, clearly pointed this out in an interview with the Vatican Radio. He also stressed the need to support local entrepreneurs and small farmers, encouraging them not to abandon the agricultural market.
Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the FAO summit also called for new solutions, defining this crisis as “unacceptable.” Highlighted by Zenit, the Pope underlined the need for “political action which, inspired by those principles of natural law written in man’s heart, protects the dignity of the individual.” He also underlined the need to “increase the availability of food by rewarding small farmers’ hard work and guarantee them market access; too often in fact, small farmers are penalized domestically by industrial farming and internationally by protectionist policies and practices,” as recalled by Asia News.
Diverse solutions have also been proposed by humanitarian NGOs who are following the FAO Summit, such as Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontiers, and Care, who are condemning traditional financial aid, specifying the need to, once again, eliminate bio-fuels, protectionists regimes, VAT on food and the need to cultivate nutrient-rich food.
Unfortunately, Catholic NGOs such as Caritas Europa, FOCSIV, and Sant’egidio still do not seem to have an opinion on the matter. It is a great loss to the creativity needed for solving this crisis. These Catholic NGOs have field projects in several developing countries and surely with their longstanding experience could develop new perspectives to this situation in the light of Catholic social teaching.
“The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined,” he writes. “The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened.”
I submit that a good place to start to look would be religious institutions. Max Weber had a profound insight when he pointed out the specifically theological backgrounds (even if he didn’t get the particular backgrounds quite right) and their impact on morally-informed behavior make all the difference between someone like Richard Baxter and John Wesley on the one hand and Benjamin Franklin on the other (the easy cloak vs. iron cage comparison). A divine mandate inspires and motivates in ways other things simply aren’t able.
Brooks wants us to return to Franklin-esque “bourgeois virtues.” But it may just be that those secular virtues don’t have cultural staying power on their own, and when divorced from religious undergirding become a waystation on the way to rampant consumerism.
Here’s some insight into J. K. Rowling’s perspective on tyranny, in the words of Albus Dumbledore, speaking of the arch-villain of the series:
Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many vicitms, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action… (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, p. 510).
My most immediate thought upon reading this passage was the account of King Herod in the book of Matthew.
Rowling’s work is worth paying attention to, if not for its insight and its own merits (which there certainly are), then at least for its importance as an influence on popular views of life, liberty, and love.
Also, if you want a truly strange take on the popularity of the Harry Potter series, be sure to check out this article, “Harry Potter: The Archetype of an Abortion Survivor” (HT?: The Point).
We’re wrapping up the final day of classes here at Acton University 2008. Check out some of the initial reactions to Day 3 proceedings below.
- Fr. Z at WDTPRS,
- Tex at Mere Orthodoxy,
To be updated as more final day posts and overall reflections roll in.