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Acton Notes - January 2007

Acton to Release New Film

At the end of each year, many Acton supporters take time to reaffirm their belief in a free and virtuous society by contributing to Acton. Not surprisingly, with these gracious donations we have received an overwhelming number of requests for the trailer to Acton Media’s forthcoming film, The Call of the Entrepreneur. The film, to be released this spring, will awaken viewers to the incredible beauty, mystery, and power of entrepreneurship.

The trailer features three entrepreneurs applying their talents in diverse places such as Hong Kong, NewYork City, and Evart, Michigan. Each of them has one thing in common: success at applying energy to matter to create wealth.

In the trailer, an idyllic scene shows George Gilder, author of Wealth and Poverty, explaining the nature of entrepreneurial activity. Suddenly, one finds oneself standing on a busy city sidewalk looking up at the Chrysler Building’s winged cornice ornament far above. Before the mind registers the cornice looming into the foreground view, the perspective zooms back out and one finds oneself standing right across the street, but a few stories higher. The cornice is still there, eye-level now, as one peers out the window from a board room where Frank A. Hanna, III, a merchant banker from Atlanta is sitting.

Hanna has his own way of describing the work of an entrepreneur. “A zerosum game is like poker. We all sit down at a table, and I only win if someone else loses. That’s not the way a market works. That’s not the way the wealth of New York City has been built.”

Where does wealth come from, and is it bad or good? Find out when the documentary appears this spring.

If you have not seen the trailer, we invite you to visit www.acton.org. Get a glimpse of Acton’s new foray into media and an exciting feature film to be released soon. Enjoy!

From Our Conference Participants

I was in search of the moral dimension to add to sound economics and politics. Acton University offered me that critical tool...thank you for your help in spreading powerful truths, inspiring ideas and authentic hope.

—Fernando Lanas
Saint Vincent Seminary
Latrobe, Pennsylvania

Academia is increasingly fraught with Marxist ideas, and Acton’s voice is an essential force in counteracting this dangerous trend. Thank you for helping to make Acton the efficacious organization it is.

—Nicole Meline
Talbot School of Theology
Huntington Beach, California

Milton Friedman: Champion of Freedom

A great champion of freedom passed from this life on November 16 at the age of ninety–four. He was Milton Friedman, an economist and a moral thinker whose life and work deserves to be celebrated. I first met Milton and Rose Friedman in 1990 and recall how delighted they were to meet a priest who shared so many of their economic ideas. They were unfailingly supportive and encouraging over the years to the work of the Acton Institute.

While many of Milton Friedman’s positions are commonplace in politics today, forty years ago, he was very much the radical. His clarion call to rethink the merit of government control of the economy inspired several generations to look more deeply at the wisdom of nineteenth and eighteenth century thinkers.

We had our differences on questions of religion to be sure, specifically on the notion that liberty needs to be oriented to truth in order to insure its proper use. Nonetheless, our exchanges on these matters, in person or in writing, were always pleasant and friendly. It was just his nature to be kind but those who pursue the vision of a society that is both virtuous and free find support in his work, for his faith was in the capacity of a free people to manage their lives in absence of relentless government dictate. He saw that freedom works and that freedom is good. All who share his faith are in his debt, now and for many generations to come.

Middle School Student Explains World Poverty

On the second day of class at Northview Junior High School in Michigan, twelve-year-old Ian Burgler was ready for another year, another class, another schedule, another football season. Of course, Ian is not just another kid. He thinks carefully about relevant issues, and with remarkable clarity.

On this particular day he heard a lot of ideas brought up in social studies class. The discussion happened to be world hunger. The teacher asked students, “Why do you think people are starving in Africa?” “We don’t send them enough food!” “Americans hog it all!” “There’s too many people and not enough to go around!” were the answers many students gave. “Isn’t corrupted government part of the problem?” Ian’s voice hushed the room. He pressed into the awkward silence. “Africa certainly has plenty of land and natural resources, and we send over lots of aid. But nothing seems to be working, and now things are getting worse.”

The teacher nodded, so Ian continued. “Maybe if they could just trade on the free market like America does, maybe they could get out of poverty on their own, if their governments would only let them.” The teacher gave him a quizzical look, but agreed and thought, “How does this kid even know what the free market is?”

Happy New Year to Ian, his parents Catherine and Marcel, and siblings Roman, Eric, and Isabella! Special thanks to Catherine for sending us the story. “I see a bright future for the world through Ian’s eyes.” We do too, Catherine.

Acton News

As an encore for the 2005 Acton Lecture Series, Dr. Stephen Grabill introduced his new book Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics on December 14. The book is the latest imprint in the prestigious Emory University Studies in Law and Religion series edited by John Witte, Jr. Dr. Grabill spoke on natural law’s important implications for today’s society.

The 2007 Acton Lecture Series will kick off in Grand Rapids on January 9 when Dr. Michael Casey explores how arguments articulated by religious believers become radioactive in politics in a lecturecalled “The Religion of Politics.” Dr. Casey will explore how religious interventions into political and public debates have changed in recent years. Today it seems that even when arguby religious believers in the public square, the very fact that these are being articulated by religious believers is widely regarded as somehow invalidating the argument. Conversely, the contributions of secularists—no matter how incoherent—seem to escape every form of public scrutiny. Dr. Casey will examine how this strange situation has emerged, its implications for reasoned debate in democratic societies, and what might be done to change it. Dr. Casey is a permanent fellow at the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and the private secretary to Cardinal George Pell, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. He is currently serving as a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The author of many papers and articles as well as the book Meaninglessness, Dr. Casey was awarded the $10,000 Novak Award in 2002 by the Acton Institute for his contributions to thinking concerning the relationship between religion and economic liberty.