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Acton Line

Author: Acton Institute

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Dedicated to the promotion of a free and virtuous society, Acton Line brings together writers, economists, religious leaders, and more to bridge the gap between good intentions and sound economics. 
216 Episodes
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It's not news that America's trust in public institutions is falling. Gallup polls reveal that confidence in the church is at an all time low, and similarly, Pew Research has found that Americans' trust in the federal government and in each other is "shrinking." In his new book, titled “A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream,” Yuval Levin argues that the widespread lack of trust we're facing stems largely from weakened institutions – and the path forward rests in strengthening institutions rather than tearing them down. In this episode, he joins the podcast to help explain why our institutions have weakened and what we can do to address it. Yuval is an American political analyst and journalist. He is the founding editor of National Affairs and the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
On February 5, Pope Francis addressed a crowd of economists and finance ministers that had gathered together for a seminar on "New Forms of Solidarity Towards Fraternal Inclusion, Integration and Innovation." During his speech, the pope addressed the economy, sin and finance, and he also called for wealth distribution in order to alleviate poverty. “The world is rich and yet the poor increase around us,” he said. “If extreme poverty exists in the midst of wealth (also extreme) it is because we have allowed the gap to widen to become the largest in history. ”The pope says it's a "fact" the poor have only grown poorer while the rich continue to get richer – but is this really true? Can poverty really be alleviated through wealth redistribution? Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, comes on to the podcast to answer.
Central to the mission of the Acton Institute is educating people of faith about the connections that exist between religious life and economic thinking. Abraham Kuyper helped lay the groundwork for this mission by establishing why it's important for Christians to be involved in the public square. Kuyper was a Dutch politician and a Reformed theologian during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During his career, he wrote many books about theology, culture, business and so much more, and his work continues to influence many theologians today. Kuyper helps us understand the role that Christians are called to play in every area of life, even those like politics and education. This week, Michael Wagenman joins the podcast to lay out the main themes of Kuyper's thought and talk about his new book, "Engaging the World with Abraham Kuyper." Michael is a professor of theology at Western University and a professor of Biblical interpretation at Redeemer University College in Hamilton, ON.
Did you know that there are over 1,300 endangered species in the United States? Polar bears, northern spotted owls, red wolves, Florida panthers and even monarch butterflies are all on the endangered species list. We’ve been given a mandate to take care of the earth and all living creatures on it. How can we make sure that vulnerable animals are protected from extinction? This week, Jonathan Wood joins Acton Line to show how market-based approaches are the best way to tackle the issue. Jonathan is an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, where he litigates environmental, property rights and constitutional cases.
When Sir Roger Scruton passed away at the age of 75 on January 12, the world lost a giant in philosophy. Scruton wrote approximately 50 books on topics ranging from food to music to conservative thought, and in 2016 he was knighted for his contribution to philosophy and education. On this episode, Acton's Samuel Gregg explains the most important veins of Scruton's thought, especially those related to political philosophy and the arts.
On December 10, 2019, shoppers in a Kosher market in Jersey City, N.J., became the targets of anti-Semitic violence. Two men opened fire in the grocery store, killing four people. Just a few weeks later, a man wielding a machete broke into a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, and stabbed five people who were in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah. One victim, 72-year-old Josef Neumann, was the most seriously injured and currently remains in a coma. These two atrocious incidents are just a fraction of a trend anti-Semitic attacks in the United States. In a letter written to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, four New York Jewish officials wrote that, “Simply stated, it is no longer safe to be identifiably Orthodox in the State of New York. We cannot shop, walk down the street, send our children to school, or even worship in peace.’’ Not even a full century after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head. What's causing the outbreak and what can be done to counteract this hatred? Rev. Ben Johnson, managing editor at Acton, breaks it down.
On this week's episode, we pay tribute to Gertrude Himmelfarb who passed away last Monday, December 30th, at the age of 97. Gertrude Himmelfarb was a historian and leading intellectual voice in conservatism. Throughout her career, she wrote many books about Victorian history, morality and contemporary culture. The New York Post named her one of America’s greatest minds, and the National Review called her the "paragon of intellectual accomplishment." What did her work contribute to the conservative movement and how does her view of history inform our current times? Yuval Levin, Resident Scholar and Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at AEI, joins us on this episode to talk about her work and legacy.
During Christmastime in China in 2015, 1,700 churches were torn down or vandalized, a result of the Chinese government growing increasingly hostile to Christianity. In 2018, The Chinese government raided and shut down churches ahead of Christmas and detained pastors and members caught celebrating. From reports of labor camps in the country to growing surveillance through technology, China is increasingly cracking down on freedom. This is all laid out in a new book, titled Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China's Drive for Global Supremacy. The author, Bill Gertz, joins us on Acton Line to discuss. He’s a national security columnist for the Washington Times and senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon.
On May 22nd, 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson launched his program for a "Great Society" in a speech at the University of Michigan. "The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all," Johnson began. "It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning." 84 bills later, Johnson's war on poverty was in full effect, expanding to sectors in education, medicine, housing, and many more. Did the Great Society program fail or succeed? Amity Shlaes, New York Times bestselling writer and author of the new book Great Society: A New History, gives us a full picture.
Massachusetts Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed to increase taxes for big businesses and high earners to rake in nearly $3 trillion per year. Warren plans to use this tax to fund spending in health care, education, and family benefits, and as a result, according to Warren, the economy would grow. Are economists in agreement with Warren? What would increased taxes on the wealthy do for the economy? Dave Hebert, professor of economics and director of the Center for Markets, Ethics, and Entrepreneurship at Aquinas College, lays it out. On the second segment, Mark Hall, professor at George Fox University, joins the show to discuss his new book, Did America Have a Christian Founding? It's a perennial question: how did the Judeo-Christian worldview under gird America's founding and why is this question worth asking? Hall explains the main arguments in his book and dispels some common myths surrounding America's founders.
Sen. Marco Rubio's recent proposals for 'common good capitalism' have sparked criticism and praise across the board. Rubio draws heavily from Catholic Social Teaching in his defense of common good capitalism, describing an economy for the common good characterized by dignified work and stability for working class families. On November 5, Rubio addressed students at the Catholic University of America, saying “[c]ommon good capitalism is about a vibrant and growing free market, but it is also about harnessing and channeling that growth for the benefit of our country, our people and our society at large." How does Rubio propose that we harness this growth and should Catholic Social Teaching be used as a guidebook for policy makers? Acton's co-founder and president Rev. Robert Sirico explains.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation recently released their annual poll for the year 2019, revealing that over one third of the millennial generation view communism favorably, 15% believing that the world would be "better off " if the Soviet Union still existed. History, however, tells a different story. Joining this episode is Valentina Kuryliw, the daughter of survivors of a forgotten genocide orchestrated by the Soviet Union in Ukraine, called the Holodomor. Valentina shares the story of the Holodomor, explains how the Soviet Union covered up the evidence, and uncovers the reality of communism.
Panic surrounding climate change and the environment is on the rise and doomsday predictions abound. Most headlines about the environment only tell one story: that the environment is on the decline and that this decline is a result of economic development. In March, The Guardian declared that "ending climate change requires the end of capitalism." But in the midst of calls for the Green New Deal and calls to overhaul our economic system, there's another story unfolding. Holly Fretwell, Director of Outreach and a Research Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, joins this episode to explain how the environment is being improved through market based approaches. What does free market environmentalism look like and how are conservation efforts helping the climate?
In 1965, Milton Friedman was quoted by Time magazine for saying "We are all Keynesians now," referring to how pervasive the thoughts of economist John Maynard Keynes had become in society and economics. Known as the founding father of macroeconomics, Keynes's economic thought changed the way economics is approached, for better or for worse. How did his economic thought become so dominant and where has it left us? Victor Claar, professor of economics at Florida Gulf Coast University, explains. Afterwards, Acton's Dan Hugger joins the podcast to break down the life and thought of Lord Acton. John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, the namesake of the Acton Institute, is known most for his quote about power, that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." How did Acton become the historian and "magistrate of history" that he's known as today?
On this episode, Acton's Samuel Gregg joins the podcast to break down liberation theology, a Marxist movement that began in the 20th century and took root in the Catholic Church in Latin America. October 27 marked the close of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, a summit organized to foster conversation on ministry and ecological concerns in the Amazon region. But the synod also revealed how, as Gregg says, "liberation theology never really went away." On the second segment, we take a look at what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. This Saturday, November 9, marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Tom O'Boyle, past correspondent for the Wall Street Journal who covered the events that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, comes on to the show to share stories of what he witnessed while he was there.
In just the first week of the release of Kanye West's new explicitly Christian record "Jesus is King," it's outsold his previous album "Ye," projected to sell 225-275k copies. In addition to comments regarding his conversion to Christianity, he's dominated cultural conversation with increasingly conservative opinions, addressing everything from the importance of communities, to local churches and even in a recent interview, condemning abortion. Andrew T. Walker from ERLC comes on to the show to break down reactions to Kanye's conversion, new artistic direction and cultural influence. On the second segment, Bulgarian economist Stefan Kolev explains the relevance of the 20th century German economist Wilhelm Röpke, and lays out how Röpke's thoughts on community are applicable in our digital age.
The new super villain drama 'Joker' has shattered box office records and gained much controversial media attention along the way. Set to top $900 million worldwide, the dark film from director Todd Phillips and actor Joaquin Phoenix is already being heralded as the biggest R-rated movie ever. So why has 'Joker' been such a hit? Christian Toto, award winning movie critic and editor at Hollywood in Toto, breaks it down, explaining how the film touches on themes like mental illness, morality and even empathy. After that, Myron Magnet, editor at large at City Journal, joins the show to talk about his newest book, “Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution,” which explores the life of Justice Thomas and how the Justice's approach to the Constitution is changing the Supreme Court.
On October 4, Daryl Morey, manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a tweet that included the words “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.” Afterwards, China severed several partnerships they had with the Rockets in retaliation, leading Morey to delete his tweet and apologize for it and also prompting NBA commissioner Adam Silver to issue a statement declaring that the NBA does not regulate the speech of its players. Since then, however, the NBA has made attempts to appease China. So what’s the current state of the NBA’s relationship with China and does the NBA have a moral responsibility to denounce China? Micah Watson, professor of political science at Calvin University, joins Acton staff to discuss. Afterwards, Robert Doar, president and Morgridge scholar at AEI, comes onto the show to speak about effective solutions to poverty in America. He also shares how he came to be deeply interested in battling poverty, recalling the career of his late father John Doar who did heroic work in the U.S. Justice Department fighting racial discrimination and working for voting rights during the 1960s and '70s.
In 2017, a poll from NPR and Ipsos found that one in every three people in the U.S. has been affected by the opioid crisis in one way or another. One third of Americans know someone who has overdosed or know someone who is battling addiction -- and the crisis hasn't slowed down. On this episode, AnneMarie Schieber, award winning television news anchor and reporter based in Grand Rapids, MI, dives into the issue and explores how the private sector is responding to the crisis. What are churches and ministries doing to help people free themselves from addiction?
In 1995, Pope John Paul II spoke to a crowd in Baltimore, MD, saying, "Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community. The basic question before a democratic society is: how ought we to live together?" This question has proved important throughout history and has left some people wondering how neutral our founding ideas were, and whether particular faith traditions, especially Catholicism, are compatible with the American political order. So what defines our American political order? Is it at odds with Catholic Social Teaching? John C. Pinheiro, professor of history and the founding director of Catholic Studies at Aquinas College, joins the show to break it down.
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