Acton Notes - President's Message

There is a passage from the sixth chapter of St. Matthew in which Jesus says: "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these."

An interpretation would suggest that Jesus is only saying that we should not concern ourselves with material possession. That is partially true but there is a deeper point. We have to concern ourselves with material provision at some level or else we do not stay alive or thrive as human beings. A more fundamental point is that we should not let our concern for material possession consume our lives to the exclusion of fundamental moral and spiritual truths.

One of those truths concerns human freedom. Many people want to erect social systems that deny human freedom in the name of providing for all. In history, we've seen states from the ancient times to the present that take on god-like powers in the name of providing for our needs. The irony of these attempts is that they have produced opposite results from what people intend. It typically leads to material deprivation and demoralization of the population. It certainly ends in denying people fundamental freedoms.

How do we answer such concerns? We can point to the myriad ways in which the free economy does in fact provide even without a central planner or a large state. We can point out that the more government does, the more the government crowds out private solutions to our social problems. We can cite thousands of technical studies showing how the free economy is indeed the best means to assure that society thrives and grows and that people's needs are met.

In the end, however, I suspect that the person who doesn't trust in freedom will not accept this rationale. There is a reason that Jesus drew attention to the birds and the lilies. They thrive by virtue of God's plan, not a government plan. It is the same with the human person. This is a point that the Acton Institute, in every aspect of its work, is making part of the debate about our future. Thank you for your support of our work.

Rev. Robert Sirico, President