The Acton Institute has been flooded with media requests because of the 2013 apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis. While "'Evangelii Gaudium" primarily examined the role of evangelization in the world, the new pope also weighed in on economic issues and the free market. Acton's primary criticism of the document, stated by research director Samuel Gregg in National Review, was that far too many unexamined economic assumptions had made their way into the text. One might assume from some of the pope's comments that the role of the state's interest is benign or unbiased in the world in comparison to the free market.
In a November 27 video response, Rev. Robert Sirico said he agreed with Pope Francis when he says "markets are not enough" but added that it's important to make the distinction between a free market and the kind of crony-capitalism and unfettered governments on the rise today. "Indeed, does the Pope make a distinction between what his predecessor Blessed John Paul II called the free economy and the kind of crony or state capitalism so clearly on display today in much of his own Latin America?" asked Rev. Sirico.
Rev. Robert Sirico appeared on Fox's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," and CNBC's "Kudlow Report" among other television appearances. He appeared on Hugh Hewitt's radio show with guest host AEI President Arthur Brooks on December 11. Acton Research Fellow Michael Miller also appeared on Kudlow's program.
In a The Detroit News column addressing the Pope's exhortation, Rev. Sirico declared:
We cannot respond with truth to the challenge of eradicating exclusion and poverty if the poor continue to be objects, targets of the action of the state and other organizations in a paternalistic and aid-based sense, instead of subjects, where the state and society create social conditions that promote and safeguard their rights and allow them to be builders of their own destiny.
At the most recent Acton on Tap in downtown Grand Rapids on December 10, research fellow Jordan Ballor examined "The Economics of the Heidelberg Catechism." This year marks the 450th anniversary of the publication of this renowned Reformed confessional document in 1563. Although not primarily an economics text, the catechism does have a number of significant things to say about economic activity and material prosperity. In his remarks, Ballor explored the origin, essence, and goal of economic activity as taught in the catechism. Referring to Lord's Day 50, which treats the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," Ballor located the divine origin of material blessings in the catechism's understanding of God as "the only source of everything good."
The essence of economics is contained in the catechism's exposition of the 8th commandment prohibiting theft, which includes the positive responsibilities of stewardship and the need for each person to "work faithfully" so that in the creation of wealth and the service of others we might "share with those in need." The goal of economic life is represented in the catechism's teachings on the Sabbath, particularly as understood in the obligation to more and more rest from our "evil ways" in anticipation of the eternal rest of the new heavens and new earth. The meeting concluded with a Q&A period, in which the participants discussed the significance of the catechism, the responsibilities of individuals, churches, and governments to assist those in need, and a number of other issues. Audio of the evening's talk is available at the Acton website: http://wp.me/p1yKke-gxB.
The next Acton on Tap, scheduled for February 4 at San Chez Bistro in downtown Grand Rapids, will address the growing threat to religious liberty. Religion & Liberty's managing editor Ray Nothstine will discuss the ideas and tradition that promoted a robust religious freedom in America as well as how to handle the current threat today. Last October, Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) President Lawrence Reed spoke at Acton on Tap on the topic of "Learning the Lessons of Ancient Rome." If you have questions about Acton on Tap please contact Nick Porter at nporter@ acton.org.
Jay Richards, former director of Acton media, will deliver a lecture on "Why Libertarians Need God" at the Grand Rapids office. The January 30 lecture is part of the 2014 Acton Lecture Series lineup. Richards believes the core "libertarian" principles of individual rights, freedom and responsibility, reason, moral truth, and limited government make little sense in an atheistic and materialistic worldview; but make far more sense in a theistic context. Jay W. Richards is the Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, author of The New York Times bestselling books Infiltrated and Indivisible and author of Money, Greed, and God, which won a Templeton Enterprise Award in 2010. Future 2014 lecturers include Raymond Arroyo of EWTN, Lawrence Reed, and Chip Mellor, who is the president of the Institute for Justice (IJ). The entire Acton Lecture Series schedule can be viewed at http://www.acton.org/program/als/home.
In December of 2013, the Acton Institute started accepting Bitcoin and Dwolla donations. Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency that is created and exchanged electronically. Dwolla, a United States only company is a payment network that allows people to send, request, and accept money with just a flat fee of 25 cents and no fee for transactions under $10. Both forms of exchange are hailed for some as a new, cheaper, and easier way to transfer money in the global economy. Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEE) accepted a 1,000 BitCoin gift in 2013. At the time, the donation was equivalent to a million dollars.
The decision to accept Bitcoin has garnered positive news stories for Acton. The Detroit Free Press and MLive have both chronicled Acton's decision to accept BitCoin. The Detroit Free Press highlighted the increasing number of companies and organizations accepting BitCoin.
One of the positives of BitCoin and Dwolla is that it comes with enhanced privacy protection. "Because of the built in privacy strength of the currency, Bitcoin's founders called it 'very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it properly.' There is virtually no risk of identity theft through the currency transaction," declared Acton's executive director Kris Mauren. BitCoin is considered a positive development in repressed countries as BitCoin can bypass blocks in payment or giving.
Acton's executive director expanded on the importance of BitCoin:
We want to be an organization that always encourages free expression and speech too. As we expand opportunities to raise funds and promote a free and virtuous society, we vow to continue to do the very best at being stewards of your hard earned gifts. Since we promote liberty and freedom here at Acton, it makes sense to offer increased freedom in the ways that our donors are able to give.