Religion & Liberty Article Listing

The Social Crisis of Our Time

Those who, like the Swiss economist Wilhelm Röepke, dislike both a laissez faire economy and a planned or state-manipulated one usually hope for a “Third Way” skirting both. Originally published in 1942, this thoughtful, richly textured work is Röepke’s first formulation of the “Third Way.”

Röepke saw causes ranging from Christianity’s decline, the rise of ideology and the “cult of the colossal” to the surge in population combining to produce “the social crisis of our time”: the rise of “mass society” and large-scale economies, in which families disintegrate and individuals become powerless.

A fierce opponent of collectivism, Röepke knew state intervention in the economy was usually harmful, and socialism necessarily meant tyranny.


With Liberty and Justice for Whom?

Gay identifies three distinct positions on capitalism among evangelicals: those held by the evangelical left, right, and center. Each of their positions are treated with utmost fairness, a feat which by itself makes the book, and Gay himself, worthy of high praise.

Many of the criticisms raised against capitalism by the evangelical left are familiar, and not unlike those raised by the secular left. In addition, evangelicals on the left raise a number of biblically based criticisms of capitalism, including the allegation that capitalism is inconsistent with much of the Mosaic legislation and with the teaching of Jesus (e.g. the story of the rich young ruler).

Anyone familiar with the economic pronouncements of mainline Protestant denominations and the World Council of Churches...

The Church and the Revolution

What Weigel calls the “Standard Account” gives primary credit for the Revolution of 1989 to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Advocates of this interpretation argue that two tenets of Gorbachev’s policy proved to be the conditions sine qua non for the eventual success of the Revolution: the Soviet army would no longer intervene when its allies chose to go their own way and the Soviet party would no longer demand exclusive communist control of central and eastern Europe.

While conceding the importance of Gorbachev’s reining in his armed forces as the Soviet satellite regimes tottered, Weigel nevertheless argues that it is “simply realistic to suggest that by the time the Revolution of 1989 gained critical mass in the fall and winter of that year, Gorbachev really had no choice but...

The Free Market and Public Morality

R&L: What was it that caused you to have second thoughts about the role of the state in economic life and about the left-wing agenda of the 60’s of which you were so much a part?

Novak: In many places the liberal agenda did not work as we had hoped. I was living in New York at the time, and the city almost went bankrupt. Crime and illegitimacy were mounting. Those of us who were in favor of the “War on Poverty” never said “Just wait, in thirty years we’ll move the illegitimacy rate from 6 percent to 30 percent. Crime will go up 700 percent. Poverty programs will work for the elderly, but among the young the sense of dignity and rule of law will be far lower than it is today.” We did not intend any of these things. The programs did not work in the way that we...

The Moral Nature of Free Enterprise

In the marketplace, the consumer is “king.” To become wealthy in free enterprise usually involves mass production for mass material consumption. The free market rewards entrepreneurs for their correct anticipation of consumer demand. It showers people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie with tremendous wealth, because they dramatically improved the consumer’s quality of life.

Contrast this with socialist or pre-capitalist society. Those societies excel in producing an abundance of grinding poverty, famine, disease and oppression. Their parasitic government officials live in opulence while creating only misery and chaos. Free enterprise radically changes this picture by creating a broad based, middle class and consumer society.


Mia Immaculee Antoinette Acton Woodruff

The phone rang at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 5th. “Her heart gave up” was how a mutual friend announced Mia’s death. Marie Immaculée Antoinette Acton, later the Hon. Mrs. Douglas Woodruff, was dead at 89. I had seen her scarcely two weeks prior and knew that the end was near: “One can live too long, Jim,” she had said. Though she had often joked about the nuisance of what she described as her “creeping decrepitude,” there was a different tone of voice this time. The end came in her beloved home, Marcham Priory, near Abingdon, on the grounds of which stands an ancient stone building (used as chapel and library by the Wood- ruffs), a remnant from the 10th century Benedictine abbey, suppressed in 1538.

What justice can be done to a life in a few score words? Mia Woodruff’s life breathed the long...

Benjamin Constant

Born near Lausanne, Switzerland, to descendants of Huguenots, Constant was educated at the universities at Erlangen and Edinburgh, the latter having such luminaries as Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson on their faculty-a center of Whig politics.

In contrast to the physiocrats who supported an enlightened despot to promote liberal principles, Constant rejected such solutions, declaring that government was the greatest threat to liberty. The worst thing would be to give the state more power, regardless of what the agenda might be.

He gave many reasons to limit state intervention in the lives of people: 1) errors...

John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation

In John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation, many different viewpoints converge and, with only a few exceptions, further Fr. Murray’s understanding of the essential need for civilized, rational discussion. All but perhaps three of the thirteen essays proceed in the spirit of Murray. The book is divided into three main sections. In the first section, essays by Richard John Neuhaus and William R. Luckey stand out. Neuhaus’ essay, from a purely stylistic point of view, is a joy to read. Writing prior to his “transition” to Catholicism, Neuhaus provides an intriguing comparison of Murray’s concept of Christian dualism (i.e., the recognition of a tension between the immanent and the transcendent, the secular and the sacred, creation and redemption, etc.) with Martin Luther’s...

Adam Smith in His Time and Ours

Let me resolve this paradox by stating that Jerry Muller is a Professor of History at the Catholic University of America. He has written a book which economists and libertarians ought to read. It is also written in such a style that the general reader can derive great benefit from it.

The book deftly summarizes a mass of scholarship from many different areas–political philosophy, ethics, psychology, history, and literature–without trivializing it into bland encyclopedic entries.

The author sheds light on the various traditions to which Smith was reacting: Greek and Roman philosophy, Christian thought, the Classical Republican tradition, the history of economic thought from Scholasticism, Mercantilism, and natural right theories of Hobbes and Locke.


Freedom From Welfare Dependency

R&L: What are the differences between the genders as articulated in your book Men and Marriage and what impact does this have on the social order?

Gilder: The key difference is that the woman holds in her very body a link to the long term future of the race. Her sexuality determines her long term goals. As a very physiological consciousness, she knows she can bear and nurture children. She has a central role in the very perpetuation of the species. The man is estranged from this process; his sexuality arises merely as a compulsive drive to pleasure. It’s short term by nature. It’s predatory and quickly gratified. The Women’s Movement tragically reduces female sexuality to the terms of male sexuality. When this happens, she reduces herself to the male...

The Economics of Sin Taxes

“Sin Taxes” are so called because they are levied on those commodities, such as tobacco and alcohol, which are the objects of widespread disapproval. “Such taxes,” Paul Samuelson says, “are often tolerated because most people–including many cigarette smokers and moderate drinkers–feel that there is something vaguely immoral about tobacco and alcohol. They think these ”sin taxes“ stun two birds with one stone: the state gets revenue, and vice is made more expensive.”

“Sin Taxes” is not a technical term in economics. They are simply a form of excise tax. What, then, is an excise tax? It is a tax levied on some but not on all commodities. This is how it differs from the general sales tax, which is levied on all products (with certain minor exceptions). This...

Zoning as a Threat to Religious Liberty

If you take for granted your attendance at the church on the corner, it may be a good time to stop. You are about to be introduced to what many believe has become the worst threat to religious liberty in America: local zoning laws.

In theory, zoning laws sound reasonable and those who back zoning regulations often have good intentions. However, the reality is that zoning controls are turning property rights, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of religion into mere concepts that can only be exercised at the whim of government officials.

Fairfax County, Virginia, is a case in point. “Reasonable” sounding zoning regulations have gotten so out of control in Fairfax that many congregations cannot build new sanctuaries or expand old ones. Other churches which are granted...

An Honor Well Deserved: Michael Novak

It is sometimes said that capitalism lacks poets. In twenty-five books and a career of lecturing and teaching all over the world, Michael Novak, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, had devoted much of his life to poetically explaining the crucial role of private initiative in public life. In doing so, he has roused the moral imaginations of scholars around the world.

His service in defense of freedom has now been duly recognized. Mr. Novak has joined the pantheon of recipients of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, a list which includes Mother Teresa, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Billy Graham and Charles Colson. Novak is a most deserving honoree–for his work has been remarkably influential in Christian social teaching on economics.

In 1991, when...

Francisco Suarez

Durante el siglo XVI irrumpió en la escena política una mezcla de ideas profanas y sagradas caracterizadas por la aparición de la doctrina del Derecho Divino de los Reyes. A lo largo del norte de Europa, particularmente en Francia, los monarcas demandaban para sí mismos soberanía divina del mismo modo que la iglesia lo había hecho respecto a su autoridad moral divina. El resultado fue una divinización del Estado que permitió al monarca proclamar que no era responsable ante la iglesia ni ante los individuos, sino solamente ante Dios.

Francisco Suarez, en contra de defensores de este derecho divino como Jaime I de Inglaterra, defendió las instituciones sagradas en contra de la perversión secular que amenazaba la integridad tanto de la iglesia como...

Francisco Suarez

During the sixteenth century, a mixing of the profane and the sacred took place in the political scene characterized by the appearance of the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings. Throughout mostly northern Europe, and particularly in France, monarchs were demanding for themselves divine sovereignty just as the church had claimed divine moral authority. What occurred was a divinization of the state in which the monarch claimed to be answerable to neither church nor his subjects but to God alone.

Against such defenders of Divine Right, like King James I of England, Francisco Suarez sought to defend the sacred institutions against a...