“Contemporary discussions of limited government often describe the separation between church and state,” noted Dr. Jay W. Richards of the Acton Institute. Richards provided a lecture for the Free and Virtuous Society Conference titled “Limited Government and the Rule of Law.” The church of course plays a substantial role in limiting the size and scope of government. Richards quoted from Romans 13:1–6, which establishes God as the highest power for the Christian. The duty of the state is to protect and provide for the rule of law. When states continue to overreach their original area of jurisdiction, their laws can become unjust. Richards notes, “Our entire view of God and humanity should influence how we view the role of the state in our lives.” Being created in the image of God is essential to understanding human persons and their ability to create and cultivate without an overabundance of external hindrance. Richards also quoted Friedrich Hayek concerning economic principles, who noted, “command economies lead to chaos.”
The Free and Virtuous Society Conference attracted seminarians, other graduate students, and church leaders from across the country and internationally, attended by students from as far as Guatemala and Poland. Noted author George Gilder was present for a portion of the conference. Gilder greatly added to the discussion on the opening night. In addition, Fr. Roger Landry gave two addresses, titled “Distinctions and Definitions for a Free and Virtuous Society” and “Entrepreneurial Vocation.” Fr. Landry has extensive education in bioethics and moral theology. He is the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Acton’s director of programs and education was another speaker at the conference and a member of the panel. Michael Miller’s lectures were titled “Christian Anthropology, Freedom, and Virtue,” “Virtue and Economic Thinking,” and “Globalization.” Miller said, “It’s important to study economics because there is a lot of emphasis on social justice, and we need to get the thinking right on these issues.” Acton’s research fellow Anthony Bradley also provided enlightening and informative addresses for the conference participants.
On August 25 in Grand Rapids, Dr. Jay W. Richards exposed common myths about poverty. Discussions about poverty and moral responsibility are on the rise in our society and culture, especially with the rise of Jim Wallis and his organization Sojourners. Richards declared to a packed crowd, “This gives us a huge opportunity, even if we disagree with some of the prominent thinkers, to add to the discussion.” He added, “many well intentioned policies unfortunately go awry.”
Richards said the piety myth “focuses on our good intentions rather than the unintended consequences of our actions.” An example he provided was rent control, which causes major shortages in housing and affects the quality of housing. Moderately priced housing diminishes significantly in communities with rent control.
Another essential example cited by Richards was the “zero-sum game myth,” which holds that wealth gained in one place always means that wealth was lost someplace else. To illustrate this myth, Richards used the example of pie, saying that if somebody cuts for themselves a larger piece by proportion, somebody else of course loses out. Most economists and entrepreneurs however understand that wealth is created, and Richards used the example of sand and the explosion of the microchip. Natural resources are one example of material being harvested for production and consumption.
Richards also stressed the need for comparisons between reality and reality, instead of reality versus the myth. He said “many factories get accused of being sweat-shops.” He cited that sometimes the notion exists in the critics’ head that if the “sweat-shop” was closed down that person would be provided with an education, and a fantastic college degree, which is closer to the truth here in America, but not necessarily true somewhere else. The truths of real situations and events are unhelpful if they are weighed against unrealizable ideals. Richards believes it is paramount to be able to recognize these myths in day to day life, as well as being able to respond to these myths.
Before leaving to return to schools and careers, Acton interns provided additional valuable promotion for The Call of The Entrepreneur on the social networking website Facebook, as well as the YouTube website, mentioned in an earlier issue of Acton Notes. Over a period of days, several Acton interns joined multiple Facebook groups with economic or entrepreneurial focuses, and posted a short message about The Call of The Entrepreneur and a link to the trailer. On the Facebook website, over eighty members have joined the page, and many have posted comments of praise for screenings they attended. To see the video trailer, go to www.youtube.com and search using the terms “Acton” and “entrepreneur.” Viewings of the posted trailer are well over fourteen thousand, and this number continues to grow daily. In addition, there is also a Wikipedia entry detailing information concerning the film and premiere information.
The Acton Institute has named the Samaritan Award winner for outstanding private, voluntary charitable service. The prestigious award has been give to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches, Inc. The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches is a heavily privately funded organization that began thirty years ago when a group of Arkansas sheriffs saw the need to provide a home for children who, through no fault of their own, were left without a home. Often the youths were victims of horrific sexual and physical abuse. A ranch staff member named Suzi Williams noted, “our program is so small compared to the sin in the world.” Another important characteristic of the ranch is a commitment for young people at the ranch to have a valuable connection with at least one adult. This connection provides a strong bond of love and a deep sense of worth, which is critical for lasting rehabilitation and growth.
Another outstanding aspect of the program is the belief of not abandoning those who participate in their program because of an age-limit mandate. Participants are allowed to stay involved and seek guidance beyond their post-secondary education, until they’re able to foster their own independence in life. The leaders and supporters of the ranch believe in the youth. Participants have the opportunity to care for animals and to be involved in production on the ranch. All of the profits and hard work in production directly benefit the kids morally and financially. Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches, Inc. was selected out of a candidate pool of over three hundred applicants. An inspiring and uplifting video detailing the ranch can be seen on their website, www.youthranches.com
The Samaritan Award winner is featured in a special issue of World Magazine titled “Second– chance ranch.” Thirteen other charitable programs are also featured in the September double issue of World Magazine. In the article, it is noted that only 5 percent of the Ranches’ operational support comes from government sources.