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Acton Notes - March 2009

Dr. Gregg Delivers Address on Economic Crisis

Acton’s director of research, Dr. Samuel Gregg, delivered an address titled “America’s Economic Crisis: Looking Back, Looking Forward,” to a packed audience in downtown Grand Rapids on February 12. The lecture was the second of the year in the 2009 Acton Lecture Series.

Speaking of the stimulus bill cur rently before the U.S. Congress, Dr. Gregg said, “I could give multiple lectures on the horrors of the stimulus bill, but I believe this is a distraction from the wider economic picture, which is an accelerating program of interven tionism.” Dr. Gregg also discussed the causes of this crisis by dissenting from the narrative of placing the blame on the free market:

It is hard not to detect a consistent refrain: that the economic crisis is a crisis of capitalism; it’s a crisis generated by an allegedly unregulated free market; a crisis caused by capitalists. And yet, when we examine the causes of the crisis, what is particularly striking is how little they have to do with the market and how much they have to do with, first, interventionist economic policies and, second, widespread moral failure, and not just on Wall Street but also on Main Street.

Dr. Gregg asked: “If interven tionist policies have played such a powerful role in facili tating the crisis, then why are we looking to interventionist policies to solve the problem?” He also delivered an analysis of Keynesian economic policies, while advo cating for a new way forward that emphasizes free-market growth and moral renewal. “If economies ultimately consist of human beings creating wealth and human beings engaging in free exchange, then moral reform is equally important,” said Dr. Gregg. He also added, “In the end, no amount of regulation — heavy or light — can substitute for the type of character formation that is supposed to occur in families, churches, and synagogues.”

Honor Roll Reach Expanding

On Tuesday, February 3, Acton’s manager of Catholic education initiatives, Anthony Pienta, vis ited Bishop Thomas K. Gorman High School in Tyler, Texas, to make an official presentation of the 2008-09 National Catholic High School Honor Roll award. The school invited Pienta to celebrate its fifth consecutive placement on Acton’s Top 50 list. The public ceremony included U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert, and was attended by over 300 stu dents, teachers, parents, and members of the media. Pienta gave an in-service to the school’s teachers on the importance of integrating faith into every aspect of a school. Principal Jim Franz stated that the visit was “in many ways a gift from God,” because teachers have few opportunities to reflect on the synthesis of theology with things like eco nomics, business, social studies, or science. At that meeting Pienta reviewed lessons Acton has learned about Catholic education through the Honor Roll, and made available a number of resources.

In a related event, Acton was recently visited by an Australian priest, Fr. Michael Twigg, whose order runs a Catholic secondary school. Attempting to learn more about effective Catholic high schools in the United States, Fr. Twigg used Acton’s Top 50 list as a guide for selecting which schools to visit. During his three weeks in the country, he visited seven Top 50 schools, and spent one day at the Acton Institute. He said the trip was extremely ben eficial because he learned what successful Catholic schools do in America, and that he hopes he will be able to apply many of those lessons back home in Australia. “I was humbled and overwhelmed at the generosity and I learned so many things… which will hopefully assist all of us as we continue in this important mission of the church,” he said. To learn more about the National Catholic High School Honor Roll, visit www.chshonor.org or con tact Anthony Pienta at apienta@acton.org.

Acton PowerBlog’s New Feature

In February of 2009, the Acton Institute introduced a new regular feature to the PowerBlog titled “Powerblog Ramblings.” The concept, created by associate editor Jordan Ballor posts a question along with some background for why that question has been selected, and various PowerBlog con tributors and guests will in turn respond. Ballor named this feature “PowerBlog Ramblings” in part as an allusion to the publication The Rambler, with which the institute’s namesake, Lord Acton, was closely affiliated with for a time. The Rambler aimed to provide a medium for the expression of independent opinion on subjects of the day” on topics including “home and foreign literature, poli tics, science and art.”

The first question offered by “PowerBlog Ramblings” was “What is wrong with socialism?” Answering the question, Acton’s research fellow Kevin Schmiesing declared, “I can hardly do better than Pope John Paul II, who wrote in Centesimus Annus, ‘the fundamental error of socialism is anthropologi cal in nature,’ because socialism maintains, ‘that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice.’

Other questions answered on the PowerBlog have been “What is the future of the faith-based ini tiative?” and “What are the moral lessons of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?” A featured guest, Dr. Joseph Knippenberg, answered a question on the PowerBlog about the future of faith-based initiatives. Dr. Knippenberg is a profes sor of politics at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.

Dr. Andrew Abela Wins 2009 Novak Award

Dr. Andrew Abela is the 2009 Novak Award win ner. Dr. Abela received his Ph.D. in management with concentrations in marketing and business ethics from the prestigious University of Virginia, Darden Business School, in 2003 and an MBA from the Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Dr. Abela is an associate professor of marketing and chair-elect of the Department of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He has extensive profes sional experience, including most recently as the managing director at the Marketing Leadership Council, a research program serving chief mar keting officers of leading global firms. He also spent several years with the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company, and was a brand manager with Procter & Gamble.

Dr. Abela’s main research areas include consum erism, marketing ethics, Catholic social teaching, and internal marketing communication. Believing that anti-free-market perspectives seem to domi nate discussion about the social impact of business, Dr. Abela is working to explore Christian ethics further to show how these issues can be resolved more humanely and effectively through market oriented approaches. To aid this work, Dr. Abela is currently preparing a catechism for business lead ers, which will address tough ethical questions in business in the light of Christian social ethics. A frequent guest on television and radio programs, Dr. Abela has recently addressed such issues as the moral underpinnings of the current financial crisis and ethics in advertising.

The Novak Award forms part of a range of schol arships, travel grants, and awards available from the Acton Institute that support future religious and intellectual leaders who wish to study the essential relationship between theology, the free market, economic liberty, and the importance of the rule of law. Details of these scholarships may be found at www.acton.org/programs/students.

Acton and You

On February 16 the Acton Institute co-sponsered a conference in Rome at the Pontifical University Antonianum on “State Financing of Catholic Schools.” The controversial subject often calls for lively dis- cussion and debate in private Christian education. Often strongly demanded by Catholic families as their civil and taxpayers’ right, it is opposed by others, including other Catholics, on one or more grounds: Constitutional separation between state and religion, the threat of fragmentation of the national community (since such financing may then have to be afforded to the followers of other religions, too), or, that of giving the state a pretext to interfere with the organization and contents of education in church schools. Rev. Robert Sirico and Dr. Samuel Gregg both participated in the conference. Dr. Gregg told Vatican Radio:

Of course the Acton institute believes in a free and virtuous society that is very much formed and based on a proper understanding of anthropology and natural law. We would actually argue that many Western Europeans have become accepting of the state playing a very large role in many aspects of their lives. In many respects that is quite contrary to the history of the way that the church has dealt with and thought about many of these questions...and simply we are trying to remind people what their own faith tradition says about these things.