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Acton Notes - May 2009

“Davos Capitalism” replaces Free Markets

Coining the phrase “Davos Capitalism,” Acton’s director of programs Mr. Michael Miller spoke at the April 2 Acton Lecture Series in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Defending the strength of free markets, Miller explained the meaning behind “Davos Capitalism”:

We haven’t had free-market capitalism— we’ve had Davos capitalism, a managerial capitalism run by self proclaimed enlightened elite politicians, business leaders, technology gurus, bureaucrats, academics, and celebrities—all gathered at a posh resort in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum where each year they try to make capitalism smarter or more humane—or in Bill Gates’s words last year at Davos—more “creative.”

Miller called the financial crisis a “symptom of a larger and deeper moral and civilizational crisis.” He spoke about the need for spiritual renewal and a greater need to stand for liberty and responsibility. Quoting Lord Acton, Miller said “liberty is a delicate fruit of a mature civilization.” His call for renewal included “the work of cultivating a moral culture—one committed to truth, responsibility and a spiritual depth that the Davos man and the secular elite cannot provide.”

Miller’s lecture touched upon government intrusion into the life of the individual, overregulation, and cultural and societal critiques. Miller tied much of his critique to the famed French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville. He said of Tocqueville:

Tocqueville worried that liberal individualism and democracy’s focus on equality could have dark and dangerous effects on society creating a type of man, society, and government that would become ripe for a new type of despotism —different than the old type of despotism—a softer despotism but one that enervates the life and vitality from man and reduces citizens to children and adolescents and ultimately destroys the potential for freedom.

Profile: Rev. Uchechukwu Aladi

Rev. Uchechukwu Aladi is a priest from the Diocese of Aba in southern Nigeria. Presently, with the help of Acton’s Calihan fellowship program, Rev. Aladi is pursuing a doctoral degree in Catholic social doctrine at Rome’s prestigious Pontifical Lateran University in order to become a dynamic and efficient instrument of God in the service of the church and humanity.

Father Aladi’s Ph.D. thesis at the Lateran University is titled “The Notion of Human Capital: A Reflection on its Theological and Pastoral Perspectives,” which aims to discover how Nigerians are participative and free when contributing to the growth of the economy.

Aladi discussed the benefits to his education and studies through his participation in Acton’s Rome conference and seminars. He declared:

Participating in relevant conferences has enhanced my studies, particularly the Acton Institute’s “Philanthropy and Human Rights: Creating Space for Caritas in Civil Society” and “Finance, Globalization and Morality: Twenty- First Century Challenge,” held last year in Rome. These conferences assured [us] that Christian love lives on in the market economy . . . and with particular consideration for the poor. The market is a sure means for global human development.

Rev. Aladi offers some valuable thoughts on the global economic crisis. “When greed, unbridled self-interest, and materialism coupled with mistaken governmental policies leave no room for Christian love in an economic system, a vacuum of morality ensues,” says Aladi.

R&L Interviews Governor Mark Sanford

In a new edition of the Acton Institute’s quarterly publication Religion & Liberty, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford discusses his criticism of government stimulus plans, the risk of a “dollar crash,” and his support for free market solutions to the economic crisis.

“We’ve been on a spending binge. And if you get ahead of yourself with regard to spending, you’re going to have to deal with the other side of the binge,” said the governor. He discussed the danger of out-of-control spending by state government that is only being further enabled by federal lawmakers. “It’s not sustainable. The idea is that you can just throw some federal dollars into that unsustainable mix. But all you do is delay big structural reforms that are absolutely essential to California, for instance, being on firm financial footing,” he said.

Governor Sanford addressed the role of religion in the public square. He was critical of those who attempted to separate their own faith influence from their public position:

I would also say the Bible says in Revelation, “Be hot. Be cold. But don’t be lukewarm“ [Rev. 3:15]. And there’s too many political candidates who walk around completely in the middle— completely in neutral. With regard not only to faith, but with regard to policy. And that’s what people are sick of. Everything’s gotten so watered down.

You can read the full interview in the current issue of Religion & Liberty or online at the Acton Institute website www.acton.org.

Acton University: A Closer Look

Mention the names Jim and Marie Gallagher to Acton University alumni, and you will see warm smiles come to their faces. The two Illinois residents are a staple of the conference, and have, in fact, attended every year of the program’s existence. Even the most junior Acton staff members know the couple by name.

Jim and Marie are not theologians or economists. However, Acton University provides the couple with an opportunity to participate actively in an intense economic or theological conversation with a young Venezuelan activist one minute and a Texas mega church pastor the next.

At the 2008 conference, Jim gave a luncheon invocation and spoke briefly about his own history. As a naval pilot turned businessman turned painter, Jim was asked to share his wisdom and experience in a more formal context with the students and seminarians who make up 50 percent of the conference.

The Gallaghers turn Acton University into a family retreat. Their son Kevin accompanies them to the conference. They share and explore a worldview centered on the Christian faith expressed through ordered liberty, beliefs which connect morality with the working of free-market economics. “At this dark time what could the world need more?” they ask.

Four years ago, Jim sent Rev. Sirico a letter, after receiving a note from Rev. Sirico elaborating on the mission and the history of the Acton Institute. In it he wrote, “What a story you have to tell. Marie and I are proud to think of ourselves as part of that story.” As donors, they have certainly been part of Acton’s story. As friends and active participants in the fight for truth and freedom, they continue to help us write it.

This year’s Acton University, which takes place between June 16-19, offers an expanded curriculum and faculty. If you would like to attend the conference or learn more about Acton University, please email Kara Eagle at keagle@ acton.org or call her in the Grand Rapids office at 616-454-3080.