Acton Notes - May/June 2012 Notes

Largest Ever Acton University

AU 2012, the largest Acton University in the history of the institute, was a booming success. Just over 70 countries were represented and nearly 800 partici-pants attended the June 12-15 conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. Fifty faculty mem-bers of Acton University taught courses at the conference. Over 70 lectures from the conference are now available to download at for only 99 cents for each lecture. The 99-cent price is available for a limited time.

Keynote speakers included Mr. Michael Novak, AEI president Dr. Arthur Brooks, Mr. Eric Metaxas, and Rev. Robert Sirico. In his Friday the 15th keynote lecture, Father Sirico declared, "When freedom is divorced from faith, both freedom & faith suffer." He also stressed that markets and poverty are not in opposition, saying, "It's not the market or the poor, it's the market for the poor."

Dave Doty, the author of Eden's Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, offered this endorsement of Acton University:

I would suggest that anyone interested in the integration of their faith and economic issues, especially marketplace vocation and/or minis-try, should check out the Acton website and seriously consider attending Acton University next summer. The seminars are diverse and insightful, the food and facilities are wonderful, and the people are intentional about advancing the Kingdom of God through marketplace and gov-ernment relationships.

Religion & Liberty's managing editor Ray Nothstine summed up the conference on the PowerBlog: "While there are certainly theologi-cal differences, we are all united and invigorated by the truth. And as Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn himself declared, "One word of truth outweighs the world."

Acton University is a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics.

Ballor Publishes Book

The Acton Institute is a member of the Refo500 network, an international platform promoting the importance of the Protestant and Roman Catholic reformations of the 16th and 17th centuries. At the second Reformation Research Consortium (RefoRC) meeting held in Oslo in May, Acton Institute research fellow Jordan Ballor was presented with his newly published book, which appeared in the Refo500 Academic Series (R5AS) from the German publishers Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. At the event, Dr. Herman Selderhuis, director of Refo500 and editor of the series, noted the publication of Ballor's work, Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus, which was the pub-lished version of his dissertation from the University of Zurich. Musculus (1497-1563) was an older con-temporary of the reformer John Calvin, and was significant for his biblical commentaries as well as his Common Places (Loci communes). Ballor's study focuses on Musculus in his broader intellectual con-text and his importance for the development of the doctrine of covenant, divine and human causality, and natural as well as civil law. "Part of the theme of this RefoRC conference is Remembering the Dead," said Ballor, "and this is fitting because it was one of my motivations to pursue this research project on Wolfgang Musculus. He is often not remembered nowadays, even though he was quite important in his own time and still has much to teach us today."

Capsule AU Lecture: Bastiat

On June 14, 2012, Dr. Todd Flanders gave a talk on Frederic Bastiat at Acton University 2012, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Todd Flanders summa-rized the writings and thought of the 19th-century French economist and statesman, and emphasized Bastiat's relevance to many of the political and economic difficulties faced by the United States and the world today.

A main lesson to be learned from Bastiat, said Dr. Flanders, is that with regard to economic and politi-cal decision-making, intuition or basic common sense is often incorrect. All economic or political policies are proposed because they appear to be beneficial. There are certain immediate, obvious benefits to a policy, and so common sense would dictate that such a policy should be adopted. The difference between a good economist and a bad one, says Bastiat, is that the bad economist looks only at the positive outcome intended by a policy, which is usually immediate and seen, while the good one can predict also any possible negative outcome that most likely will be less immediate and less obvious. Bastiat expounds this lesson most directly in his short but famous work The Seen and the Unseen, but he also touches on it in Economic Sophisms, in which he refutes the idea that tariffs and other measures to restrict international trade are beneficial to the country imposing them.

The central reality undergirding all of Bastiat's writings, said Dr. Flanders, is the fact that there is an objective truth above and beyond what any ruler or lawmaker may decide. God has given man intrinsic rights and has ordained for human beings to be social. Thus any economic or political system that attempts to benefit one sector of society at the expense of another, or to supersede man's inherent rights is erroneous and bound to fail. Bastiat sum-marized his own line of thought succinctly when he said that, "the solution to the temporal problems of humanity is to be found in liberty."

Reactions to Defending the Free Market

Positive reviews and press are pouring in for Rev. Robert Sirico's new book Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Rev. Sirico, interviewed by Fox News and dozens of other media outlets, calls his book a summary of the core beliefs and ideals of the Acton Institute.

Dr. James E. Bruce, assistant professor of philosophy at John Brown University, stated in a review at the Library of Law and Liberty site that "Sirico puts into words things I'd never thought of, but wish I had. I found myself, while reading the book, trying to take a mental note of some of his very best one-liners, turns of phrase, and examples, in an effort to store them for future use."

On Fr. Z's blog, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf heralded the book saying, "Sirico's great strength is his ability to write with clarity and concision which enables me, decidedly not an economist, to follow easily what he is talking about."

In a June interview with Patheos, Rev. Robert Sirico declared, "If we can achieve higher levels of morality, government can be easily limited. The paradox is that if we cannot achieve a higher level of moral culture, this is all the more rea-son to limit the government, because those who govern are not immaculately conceived."

On July 12, Rev. Robert Sirico will promote and discuss his book at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. The event will be streamed live online from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm.

Visit for additional information about the book. All press mentions, reviews, and interviews of Rev. Sirico's new book are available at the website. The site also includes a free chapter available for download and a trailer about the book.