Acton Notes - President's Message

With unemployment running above 9 percent, and as high as 20 and 30 percent in some sectors of the population, people who are looking for work are having their values and character challenged as never before.

They are being asked to accept salaries lower than they would have ever imagined. They are feeling pressured into work situations they never thought they would be in. They are being asked to learn skills they never thought they would need. This is why being out of work can lead us to do a personal inventory of our lives.

Clearly, the problem of unemployment is more than a test of the economic system. It is a test of a people's character and their fiber. How many of us are prepared for this? In our country of great wealth, and great economic security, most of us have not faced problems along these lines.

Several generations ago, millions of people faced a much more difficult period during the Great Depression. Many of those who grew up in the Depression went on to become members of the "Greatest Generation." There is no question that the long period of suffering and deprivation in the 1930s reinforced for many the traditional values of thrift, hard work, saving, and long-term economic planning.

Economic conditions can shape our moral character, and it works in reverse too. An essential precondition for investment is saving. Entrepreneurship is the embodiment of good judgement and alertness to opportunity. Keeping promises is the essence of the contractually based market economy.

This is one of the many problems with government entitlement programs. They short circuit the learning process that comes with freedom and free markets, and the manner in which they teach us moral values. Part of the mission of the Acton Institute is to draw these connections and explain how we all benefit from a free, open, and virtuous society. We are grateful for your support. Please keep those who are struggling with unemployment in your prayers.