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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. 

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251 Episodes
In his article in the June 2020 issue of the Journal of Institutional Economics, Dr. P.J. Hill, who served as the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton College until his retirement in 2011, begins by saying, “in any discussion of the beginning of modern economic growth, the concept of the rule of law plays a crucial role," and that, "the lack of such an order is the fundamental cause of the failure of nations."But where did the foundations of the rule of law come from?  Hill argues that the current theories about the origin of the rule of law, while useful, are also incomplete. According to Hill, the Jewish and Christian concept of all human beings being created in God’s image is an important, but often overlooked, contributor to the rule of law in Western civilization.Today, Acton’s Dan Churchwell is joined by Dr. P.J. Hill to discuss his research article, “The religious origins of the rule of law,” the way beliefs affect institutions in general, and how the beliefs of the Christian and Jewish faith traditions in particular were crucial to the establishment of the rule of law. Dr. P.J. Hill at Wheaton CollegeThe religious origins of the rule of law - P.J. HillP.J. Hill on the social power of markets - Joseph Sunde See for privacy and opt-out information.
On October 3rd, 2020, Pope Francis released the third encyclical letter of his pontificate: Fratelli Tutti.Literally translated as “Brothers all,” Fratelli Tutti is a call from Pope Francis for more human fraternity and solidarity. In it, Francis addresses a number of topics, including racism, immigration, capital punishment, war, politics and economics.In addressing economic issues, Francis warns against “financial speculation,” cautions that “not everything can be resolved by market freedom,” and denounces the “dogma of neoliberal faith.”It is with these economic issues that, in his article reviewing Fratelli Tutti for Catholic World Report, Acton’s Dr. Samuel Gregg sees “economic caricatures roam[ing] throughout Francis’s documents.”In this episode, Acton Institute president and co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico and Acton’s director of research Dr. Samuel Gregg discuss Fratelli Tutti in general, and in particular the economic concerns raised therein.Fratelli Tutti - Pope FrancisFratelli Tutti is a familiar mixture of dubious claims, strawmen, genuine insights - Samuel GreggRev. Robert Sirico responds to Laudato Si [video] - Rev. Robert SiricoDefending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy - Rev. Robert SiricoReason, Faith and the Struggle for Western Civilization - Samuel Gregg See for privacy and opt-out information.
In his article in the September 21st edition of National Review, “Toward a conservative environmentalism,” Nate Hochman says, “conservatism and conservation aren’t usually thought of as congruent; in fact, for the better part of a half century, many Americans have seen the two as antithetical.”Indeed, environmentalism generally, aspects of it like concern over global warming or climate change, and the various proposed methods of addressing those problems, like the Green New Deal, have been associated with or come from the political left.But, according to Hochman, environmentalism need not be a partisan issue or a cause owned by only one ideology. What does a conservative environmentalism look like? How can environmental concerns be better addressed through solutions guided by market-based principles instead of government-led efforts?  And how would a conservative environmentalism that “places the dignity of the human person at the center of its moral understanding” better serve us all?Nate Hochman joins us to discuss. Nate Hochman at Young VoicesToward a Conservative Environmentalism - Nate HochmanConscientious environmental stewardship - Rev. Robert Sirico15 Biblical foundations of environmental stewardship - Joe CarterFree market environmentalism: Conserving and collaborating with nature - Joseph Sunde See for privacy and opt-out information.
The untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016 amplified questions about the Supreme Court in the 2016 election to new highs. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s high wire act in denying a hearing and vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill that seat, Judge Merrick Garland, ultimately paid off for him: President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was then confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.A year later, the political world was rocked again by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the bench. Following one of the most contentions confirmation hearings in modern American political history, Kavanaugh was also confirmed.Now, the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created another election year vacancy on the nation’s highest court. President Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat. The political temperature has again risen.In his new book, “Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court,” Cato’s Ilya Shapiro examines the history of the judicial confirmation hearings, how politics has invaded the Supreme Court itself, and how appointments to the Court have become one of the most explosive features of our system of government.In this episode, Ilya Shapiro discusses his new book, how our politics of the judiciary got this way, how that politics affecting us as a nation, and what, if anything, can be done about it.Ilya Shapiro at the Cato InstituteSupreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court - Ilya ShapiroTerm Limits Won’t Fix the Court - Ilya ShapiroRoberts Rules - Ilya ShapiroEverything you need to know about Amy Coney Barrett - Rev. Ben Johnson‘A different kind of lawyer’: Amy Coney Barrett on Christian vocation - Joseph SundeHigh Court, high stakes: Replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Trey DimsdaleReligious liberty at the Supreme Court - Acton Line See for privacy and opt-out information.
With fusionism – the strategic alliance of conservative foreign policy hawks, social conservatives and economic libertarians knitted together in the last half of the 20th century in opposition to international communism ­­– crumbling after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the modern conservative movement has been remaking itself in effort to address the problems of the current day.One of these seemingly ascendant factions are the so-called common good conservatives.In an article in the October 2020 edition of Reason magazine, managing editor Stephanie Slade examines the what she calls the “great liberalism schism” that has emerged out of the collapse of fusionism.And for the common good conservatives shedding classical liberal norms, she identifies a new moniker: will-to-power conservativism, borrowing a concept from German philosopher Friederich Nietzsche. In this episode, Stephanie Slade discusses will-to-power conservatism, who exactly has a claim on the concept of the common good, and what the great liberalism schism means for our politics and society.Stephanie Slade at Reason magazineWill-to-Power Conservatism and the Great Liberalism Schism - Stephanie SladeThe biggest problems of national conservatism - Acton LineThe Post-Liberal Right: The Good, the Bad, and the Perplexing - Sam GreggPatrick Deneen and the Problem with Liberalism - Sam GreggRev. Robert Sirico responds to Marco Rubio's 'common good capitalism' - Acton Line See for privacy and opt-out information.
Charles Malik, the Lebanese diplomat and one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was intimately involved in the crises of his own day, from the challenge of international communism to the internal challenges and problems of the West itself. For Malik all of our challenges take the form of crises which, at their deepest levels, reflect Christ’s judgement.His profoundly theological vision of global crisis, one in which crises are ongoing in the lives of individual believers as well as the world at large, springs from his own lifelong Orthodox faith.In a world consumed by crises from the global COVID-19 pandemic to ongoing civil unrest in the United States Malik’s insights are timelier than ever for believers trying to navigate through a turbulent world.In this episode, Acton’s Dan Hugger talks with Dylan Pahman, research fellow and managing editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality at the Acton Institute, about Malik’s life and his book "Christ and Crisis" in which he presents his Christ-centered interpretative framework for grappling with a rapidly changing world.Christ and Crisis - Charles MalikCharles Malik - Hero of Liberty, Religion & LibertyThe burden of the Christian - Charles Malik‘Christ and Crisis’ today - Dylan Pahman See for privacy and opt-out information.
In his new book, The Socialist Temptation, author Iain Murray examines the resurgence of socialist ideology in America and across the world.Seemingly discredited just thirty years ago by the failures of the Soviet Union and Communist block Eastern Europe, socialism has seen a revival of support and popularity in the West.Murray sets out to explain why the socialist temptation endures even after it’s own massive failures, the inconsistencies in socialist thought that prevent it from ever working in practice, and how to show young people who didn’t learn the lessons of history the sorry truth about socialism.Iain Murray at the Competitive Enterprise InstituteThe Socialist Temptation - Iain MurraySocialism as religion with Kevin Williamson - Acton Line See for privacy and opt-out information.
On February 4th, 2004, a sophomore at Harvard University by the name of Mark Zuckerberg launched TheFacebook. At the time, the social networking website was limited to only students at Harvard. And while other social networking platforms like MySpace and Friendster predated the launch of Facebook, it was that February day in Cambridge, Massachusetts that the age of social media was truly born.Today, Facebook boasts 2.5 billion active users, is available in 111 languages, and is the 4th most trafficked website in the world. And from there, other platforms followed: Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pintrest and, most recently, TikTok.While these platforms were launched with a promise of connecting the entire world together in conversation, today they also have a reputation for fostering hate, animosity, vitriol, conspiracy mongering, outrage mobs and a litany of other negative societal impacts.Does social media have to be this way? Or can we be better?In this episode, Daniel Darling, Senior Vice President for Communications at National Religious Broadcasters and author of the new book A Way With Words, discusses the promise of social media, where it went wrong, what our social media habits say about us, and how we can use our online conversations for good.Daniel Darling's websiteThe Way Home Podcast with Daniel DarlingA Way with Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good - Daniel DarlingA Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream - Yuval LevinIs social media the source of our social problems? - Dan HuggerHow to drain the poison of outrage out of social media - Dan HuggerReligion & Liberty Winter 2019: Social Media See for privacy and opt-out information.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has brought with it enormous costs. These include, first and foremost, an enormous cost in the terms of human life, with more than 178,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the United States alone, and at least 814,000 deaths worldwide, as of late August 2020. But also, with the pandemic have come significant economic costs, fiscal costs, and personal costs to our happiness and quality of life.Why is living under quarantine so hard for people? In large part it’s because, prior to the pandemic, many people have enjoyed living under a system of mostly-free markets. But when we’re robbed of our ability to work in a lockdown, we’re also robbed of part of what comprises our innate human dignity, as this pandemic takes a toll not only in the loss of human life but in the loss of community.What can we learn from the economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic? How can economics and public choice theory help us better understand the actions of political leaders during this time? And how can entrepreneurship allowed for under free market systems innovate solutions to these problems?In this episode, Acton’s managing director of programs Stephen Barrows speaks with Dr. David Hebert, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics at Aquinas College, about the economics of the quarantines and lock-downs in the Covid-19.Dr. David Hebert at Aquinas CollegeWhy quarantine is no fun, part 1 (video) - Dr. David HebertWhy quarantine is no fun, part 2 (video) - Dr. David HebertPen and Paper EconomicsCreativity will kill COVID-19 - Anne Rathbone BradleyRev. Robert Sirico on the church's response to COVID-19 - Acton LineA free-market agenda for rebuilding from the coronavirus - Henrik Rasmussen See for privacy and opt-out information.
From accusations of embracing socialism leveled at the Obama administration by the Tea Party movement to the rise of self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders as the second highest vote-getter in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic Party primaries, socialism has been an emerging movement and topic of conversation in the American body politic.While polling data suggests that socialism is generally still viewed far less favorably than capitalism or free markets overall, the younger Millennial and Gen Z generations are more embracing of socialism than generations before. Similarly, those younger generations are more likely than their forbearers to be among the Nones: those who proclaim no religious affiliation and no religious or spiritual beliefs.Is socialism filling in for the human religious impulse, allowing people to feel a part of something larger than themselves without embracing the concepts of God and church?On this episode, Kevin Williamson, roving correspondent for National Review and author of the 2010 book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism,” discusses the emergence of socialism in American politics and the spiritual role it seems to play now, and has historically played, for its proponents.Kevin Williamson at National ReviewThe Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism - Kevin WilliamsonThe Celestial Afterlife of Karl Marx - Kevin WilliamsonAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s crass Marxist materialism - Dan HuggerThe key to understanding Bernie Sanders - Rev. Ben JohnsonBruce Ashford: Marxism is a false religion (video) - Rev. Ben JohnsonThere is no 'Catholic case for communism' - Rev. Ben Johnson See for privacy and opt-out information.
The conservative movement in America has always been evolving. From the old right of the progressive era to the conservative intellectual movement identified with William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review to the Reagan revolution to today, the political right in America has changed with the challenges it has faced and with the context of the times in which it has existed.The current iteration of the conservative movement is today more nationalist, more populist and more skeptical, if not opposed, to classical liberalism, liberal institutions and free markets than ever before – at times even expressing doubt or skepticism about the American founding itself.How did the conservative movement get here? On the episode, Matthew Continetti, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, discusses the history of the American conservative movement, its evolution into being dominated by nationalism and populism, and where it may be headed in the future.Matthew Continetti at the American Enterprise InstituteMaking Sense of the New American Right - Matthew ContinettiThe Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 - George NashA healthy conservative nationalism? Not without classical liberalism - Joseph SundeThe biggest problems of national conservatism - Acton Line See for privacy and opt-out information.
Since debuting in the New York Times Magazine on August 14, 2019, the 1619 Project has ignited a debate about American history, the founding of the country and the legacy emanating from the nation’s history with chattel slavery.The project’s creator and editor, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has described the project as seeking to place “the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” Components of a related school curriculum have been adopted in major cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Buffalo, New York. For her work on the project, Hannah-Jones was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.But the project has also come in for heavy criticism from historians and economists of all political and philosophical persuasions for inaccuracies in "matters of verifiable fact” in history and economics. In response to these critics, Hannah-Jones just recently declared the project not a work history, but instead a work of journalism.One of the project’s most frequent critics is Phil Magness, Senior Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.On this episode, Phil Magness discusses the objectives of the 1619 project, the economic history of slavery, the project’s historical errors and why many Americans seem to have such a difficult time accepting the complicated totality of our own history.Phillip W. Magness at the American Institute for Economic ResearchThe 1619 Project - The New York Times MagazineThe 1619 Project: A Critique - Phil MagnessPublic Schools Are Teaching The 1619 Project in Class, Despite Concerns From Historians - ReasonKarl Marx: Intellectual father of the 1619 Project? - Rev. Ben JohnsonThe 1619 Projection: 3 lies Pulitzer should not reward - Rev. Ben Johnson See for privacy and opt-out information.
Richard Baxter, the English Puritan churchman and theologian, was perhaps one of most prolific English language author in the seventeenth century. His writings were wide ranging from doctrinal theology to devotional classics. And his practical theology was a model of German sociologist Max Weber’s understanding of the protestant work ethic.Baxter’s worldly aestheticism was focused on service to others across sectarian divides. His book, How to Do Good to Many: The Public Good is the Christian’s Life, offers practical guidance to lay people grounded in Christian faith.This classic, updated for modern readers by Jordan Ballor, remains a thought provoking and inspirational meditation on Paul’s admonition to, “…do good to all people…” (Gal. 6:10)Acton’s Dan Hugger talks with Jordan Ballor, senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute, about Baxter’s life and work, and the new updated edition of How to Do Good to Many.How to Do Good to Many: The Public Good Is the Christian’s LifeHow to do Good to Many (1682)Selections from How to Do Good to Many (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)Maslow, material needs, and the gospelThe Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard BaxterThe Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of CapitalismHow Groundhog Day changed my life See for privacy and opt-out information.
Since 2006, economist Russ Roberts – the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution – has hosted the podcast EconTalk, a weekly deep conversation with economists and thinkers from other disciplines on ideas related both directly and indirectly to economics and the economic way of thinking.Economics is a powerful analytic tool which can empower us to choose more wisely as both individuals and groups. Such tools, however, should not be confused as either ends in themselves or the measure of human values.Religion is, like economics, embedded in the fabric of life itself. Its neglect, and the neglect of other humanistic values in the face of unprecedented prosperity, poses new challenges to animate our lives of affluence with purpose.Acton’s Dan Hugger talks with Russ Roberts about the intersection of faith and economics, and how Roberts’ own Jewish faith has influenced his life and work.On Ronald Coase: Human Sacrifice and the Digital Business ModelPaul Heyne's 'Limitations of the Economic Way of ThinkingRuss Roberts' videosEconTalk podcastGambling with Other People’s Money: How Perverse Incentives Caused the Financial CrisisDavid Foster Wallace 2005 Commencement Address at Kenyon College (transcript)David Foster Wallace 2005 Commencement Address at Kenyon College (audio) See for privacy and opt-out information.
The latest term of the Supreme Court, which wrapped up on July 8th, saw the Court decide several cases with major implications for religious liberty. While the outcomes of Espinoza v. Montana, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania have been largely viewed as victories for advocates of expanding religious liberty in America, the court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch and holding that an employer who fires an individual for being gay or transgender violates Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has been viewed as potentially having adverse consequences for the cause of religious liberty.What are we to make of these latest developments in the Supreme Court’s religious liberty jurisprudence?David French – Senior Editor at The Dispatch and a former constitutional litigator with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – joins us to discuss the current status of religious liberty, both in the courts and in the culture writ large.Espinoza v. Montana: A victory for school choice – but for how long? - Rev. Ben JohnsonLittle Sisters, big victories - Rev. Ben JohnsonThe Case for Religious Liberty Is More Compelling than the Case for Christian Power - David FrenchWhatever Happened to Baby Blaine? - David French & Sarah IsgurLittle Sisters 2: Vacated and Remanded - David French & Sarah IsgurThe Supreme Court Tries to Settle the Religious Liberty Culture War - David French See for privacy and opt-out information.
This week we’re rebroadcasting a conversation about religious liberty with Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, that was first released on the podcast in April of 2015. In the intervening five years since we first aired this episode, much has changed in our conversations on religious liberty – but much is still the same.While the focus is no longer on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act as it was in 2015, religious liberty is front and center this term at the Supreme Court, which major cases impacting American’s right to free exercise of religion in Bostock v. Clayton County, Espinoza v. Montana, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru. We’ll be bringing you more converge of these important cases on the podcast in the coming weeks.In this episode, Acton’s Marc Vander Maas talks with Ryan Anderson about what we mean when we talk about religious liberty – if it’s restricted merely to the freedom to worship or if the correct understanding is more expansive than that. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Since late May, many parts of the United States have grappled with unrest. Anger over George Floyd's death sparked protests, with looting and violent riots breaking out as well. Protesters have also been defacing and tearing down statues across the country, including statues of confederate leaders as well as monuments to George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and even abolitionists. The Capitol Hill autonomous zone (CHAZ), also dubbed the Capitol Hill organized protest (CHOP), was a six block area in Seattle where thousands of protesters declared total liberation from policing or government authority after police abandoned the Seattle East Precinct. Many are calling this a revolutionary moment -- but is it really? If so, what's driving it, and how are Christians called to respond to the upheaval? Acton's Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, weighs in. See for privacy and opt-out information.
At the age of 13, Jimmy Lai escaped China to experience freedom in Hong Kong and grew to be one of Hong Kong’s highest-profile media moguls. Through his work, Lai founded the anti-Beijing newspaper Apple Daily and became an outspoken critic of the People’s Republic of China, solidifying him as one of Hong Kong’s most important pro-democracy voices. In this exclusive interview, Acton’s President and Co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico speaks with Lai about his entrepreneurial work and his bravery in the face of persecution at the hands of China’s Communist Party. See for privacy and opt-out information.
When Hong Kong was released from British rule and handed over to China in 1997, the United Kingdom and Beijing struck a deal that guaranteed the freedom of Hong Kong's citizens; the territory was to remain free from mainland China's authority for fifty years. This arrangement is often referred to as "one country, two systems." Hong Kong established its own governmental and economic systems and flourished, growing into one of the most prosperous regions in the world and becoming a hub of international finance. Now, however, the People's Republic of China has broken its promise. Beijing plans to impose a new national security law that would end Hong Kong's independence, and protesters demanding democracy are being silenced. Helen Raleigh, senior contributor at The Federalist, joins this episode to shed light on the PRC's crackdown and unrest in Hong Kong. See for privacy and opt-out information.
In 18th century France, the most-read book after the Bible was a work on political philosophy written by the Roman Catholic archbishop François Fénelon. Unfortunately, Fénelon's writings on economics, politics, and theology have largely been forgotten as only a fraction of his work has been translated into English. Fénelon was an important voice in France; during the enlightenment, he fought for the reform of France's political and economic institutions. His works are a critical resource for those interested in economics, philosophy, and religion. Ryan Patrick Hanley, professor at Boston College and the author of the new book "The Political Philosophy of Fénelon," joins the show to share why he believes Fénelon's work is important for us today. Shownotes: See for privacy and opt-out information.
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