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Acton Notes - President's Message

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a friend and famed intellectual who died on January 8, 2009, didn’t write on economics much, but he made an important contribution to the subject in any case. His writing on religion was nothing short of imperious in the best sense.

In his writings, he took on nearly the whole of modern intellectual culture. But he ended up raising the profile of religious thought, providing a new outlet for many writers and bringing ideas to the forefront in a way that truly did have a massive cultural import. Among the subjects that are part of a broad view of truth is economics. It speaks of the inner logic behind the production and distribution of mate- rial goods and services. In a world in which there were no scarcities, there would be no need for economic science. But because of the structure of the world—the state of nature offers little to permit us to survive; produc- tion and distribution are unavoidable requirements.

At the same time, economics needs faith to prevent the science from sink- ing into a materialist pit. Marxism was and is bad science, but it is also bad faith in the sense that it denies that the human person is anything other than a pure consumer or a cog in the production machine. Any economic system that denies the complexity of human choice and the deeper spiri- tual needs of the human person will end in nonsense and even disaster. Fr. Neuhaus saw the need to complete the picture of society by integrat- ing religion and testing ideas against orthodoxy and the truth about man. This is why I so appreciate his work, and believe that it points the way toward the fullest appreciation of the integration of economic truth into social analysis.

This champion of truth and freedom has died, but his vision lives on in the work of the Acton Institute, which you have so generously supported.