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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

The Loss of Virtue

Several years ago the Philadelphia Inquirer published an editorial outlining the absence of moral direction in the public forum as a consequence of the current understanding of the separation of church and state. The author argued that it is as though the embrace of any moral standards implies the adoption of certain religious tenets or the dogma of a particular church.

The Founding Fathers were, of course, decidedly religious men; and it was precisely their desire to protect the free exercise of religion that led them to insist that the United States should never have a state church. It is regrettable that the modern interpretation of the separation of church and state, intended to protect religious liberty, should lead many today to the conclusion that religion and religious discourse should have no part...

Productivity and Potential

R&L: You have led an incredibly productive and active life, from the early civil rights movement to now working to strengthen the black family. What motivates you?

Perkins: I don’t like to see human potential wasted, and that’s what happens when people are left behind, either because the system excludes them or because they have failed to adopt solid values. I spent 22 years, from 1962 to 1980, in rural Mississippi, and prior to that I lived in California. But I had little basic moral training. I grew up with my grandmother, but her sons were bootleggers and gamblers. I would like to give people something I did not have.

R&L: What do you think it was in your own life that instilled values in you? ...

Natural Law and Economics

If we accept the fact that economics is a human discipline designed, in its original sense, to provide for the acquisition and management of household goods, we can perhaps admit that economics is not a wholly “autonomous” discipline that has no relation to other considerations about human life. The fact that economies are nation- and world-wide, themselves highly mathematicized, does not change the principle behind this observation.

Aristotle was quite sure that a household, as well as the polis, needs a certain amount of material goods if other ends like the practice of virtue were to be achieved. On the one hand, human life was not exclusively about such goods, but it still needed them and had to devote vast amounts of time and effort to produce them. On the other hand, there was a situation of too...

The Spirituality of Conflict

Sixteen years ago, Bill married Jennifer, his high school sweetheart, in a joyful ceremony at which I officiated. A few months ago, they stunned me with the news of their divorce plans. They had attempted to reconcile, but were now committed to ending the marriage. They informed me that since they were both rational people who respected one another, they were determined to divorce amicably.

Right now, however, Bill and Jennifer are embroiled in bitter divorce litigation. Legal fees have soared into the six-figure range and seriously threaten their estate. Their two families, who had been close for years, no longer speak; their friends have been forced to take sides. Jennifer has exchanged her beautiful home for a small apartment, and Bill has not seen his children for eight weeks.

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Sir Henry Vane

Born into the English landed gentry, Sir Henry Vane early rejected the advantages of his class, becoming a Protestant Dissenter. This set him against the government of Charles I and Archbishop Laud and their desire for an absolutist state coupled with a government-sanctioned church based on the European model.

At age twenty two, Henry went out to live with his co-religionists in the newly-established American colonies. The Bostonians soon recognized his merits and elected him governor. But once again Vane saw himself at odds with the mainstream dissenters, who often saw freedom as no more than the right to belong to an approved...

Capitalism and Christians

The book jacket on Capitalism and Christians, the newest dispatch by Arthur Jones, assures us that this editor-at-large of the National Catholic Reporter is “an economist by training.” That fact makes the pervasive and remarkable confusions in this book all the more depressing.

Jones seeks to define the relationship between capitalism and Christianity but begins with an unfair description of capitalism. It is a system, he says, in which finding “new ways of making a buck” quickly “conditions the world around it so it can extract for itself the maximum for the minimum.” Seems there’s no room for the Gospel here.

If there’s a problem in modern American life, Jones blames it on capitalism. This includes “adulterated baby foods,” “any toxic-waste site...

Economic Imperialism

R&L: You are sometimes called an “economic imperialist.” What is meant by this?

Becker: That refers to my belief that economic analysis can be applied to many problems in social life, not just those conventionally called “economic.” The theme of my Nobel lecture, based on my life’s work, is that the horizons of economics need to be expanded. Economists can talk not only about the demand for cars, but also about matters such as the family, discrimination, and religion, and about prejudice, guilt, and love. Yet these areas have traditionally received little attention in economics. In that sense, it’s true: I am an economic imperialist. I believe good techniques have a wide application. Adam Smith and many others believed that as well.

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The Manners of the Market

Sometime after watching that remarkable video clip of the Los Angeles police beating Rodney King, I found myself thinking of another run-in between the police and a wrong-doer. This other case involved a drunken, abusive trespasser onto the grounds of a private club having a party. The lout repeatedly pushed through the surrounding hedge and tried to approach the building to crash the party; two security guards repeatedly intercepted him and escorted him out the gate. I watched in uneasy anticipation as the guards’ embarrassment and anger visibly increased and the torrent of profanity rose. This will come to blows, I thought; I held my breath before the inevitable violence. But it never happened. With incredible restraint, the guards simply waited him out, pushing him back where necessary, saying steadily but firmly, “I’m...

Justice and Charity in Wages

Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus Annus, is a marvelous defense of capitalism and attack on socialism in its feudal, totalitarian, and welfare state forms. One is particularly impressed by Pope John Paul’s argument that the burdens that the welfare state places on the poor are immoral. Accordingly, this teaching does more than simply return the Catholic church to the position originally expressed by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, whose one-hundredth anniversary it celebrates.

In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo argued that “as a rule, workman and employer should make free agreements.” This was very much part of Pope Leo’s defense of capitalism. However, he then went on to say that if, through necessity, a worker accepts a wage that provides less than “reasonable and frugal...

Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton

ImmagineJohn Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, primo barone Acton di Aldenham, nacque a Napoli, in Italia, il 10 Gennaio del 1834. Suo padre, Sir Richard Acton, discendeva da una stirpe stabilitasi in Inghilterra, e sua madre, la contessa Marie Lousie de Dalberg, proveniva da una famiglia renana, che veniva considerata seconda in fatto di prestigio solamente alla famiglia imperiale tedesca. Tre anni dopo la morte del padre, nel 1837, sua madre si risposò con Lord George Leveson ( più tardi noto come Earl Granville, Ministro degli Esteri di William Gladstone) e trasferì la sua famiglia in Gran Bretagna. Grazie alla sua preparazione culturale e alla sua educazione cosmopolita si sentiva a casa allo stesso modo in Inghilterra come nel Continente e crebbe...

Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton—First Baron Acton of Aldenham—was born in Naples, Italy on January 10, 1834. His father, Sir Richard Acton, was descended from an established English line, and his mother, Countess Marie Louise de Dalberg, came from a Rhenish family which was considered to be second in status only to the imperial family of Germany. Three years after his father's death in 1837, his mother remarried Lord George Leveson (later known as Earl Granville, William Gladstone's Foreign Secretary), and moved the family to Britain. With his cosmopolitan background and upbringing, Acton was equally at home in England or on the Continent, and grew up...

Galileo's Revenge

This dynamic is and always has been present in jury trials, and every trial lawyer knows it. Jury trials are ultimately a contest between truth and rhetoric, in which rhetoric often has the advantage. The validity of any jury trial system depends, then, on its ability to develop and implement evidentiary rules that neutralize this advantage, i.e., that gives truth an even chance against flimflam.

In his book Galileo’s Revenge, Peter W. Huber presents us with compelling evidence that the American judicial system is regularly failing this test, at least in one important category of modern cases. The cases about which Huber writes are those in which “expert” witnesses use “scientific theories” to establish the defendant’s liability. Historically, the use of such testimony was allowed only...

Birth of the Modern

Johnson presents a daunting tome of some one thousand pages filled with an interdisciplinary approach that views history as a whole, involving the interface between painters (Turner), musicians (Beethoven), scientists (Lyell), and ordinary people. This emphasis upon social history, avoiding the tendency of past historians to overemphasize political events, is common among contemporary historians. But, unlike many, Johnson does not bore the reader with mundane facts about plumbing contracts in nineteenth-century France, nor does he have a hidden socialist agenda to cut down to size the historical importance of great political and business leaders. As one has come to expect from Johnson, his prose is lively and his anecdotes are often amusing, yet always substantial. A case in point is his colorful portrayal of the richness of the...

Lessons from Liechtenstein

R&L: In the United States, monarchs are usually seen as either mere figureheads or as malevolent dictators. What is the role of a monarch in a free society?

Liechtenstein: In our time, monarchies are an important factor in the stability of a country. The monarchy stands for continuity and moral responsibility for the next generation. The monarchs don’t hold their positions for a few years, and then, after an election, find themselves out of office. Rather, they automatically have to think about the next generation, because the next monarch will most likely be their child or other family member. This naturally instills in one a more long-term perspective, one of the greatest advantages of the monarchy.

Monarchies also help to strengthen...

Concerning the Education of Clergymen

In the course of my travels the length and breadth of this land, often I am struck with the innocence of both Protestant and Catholic clergy in matters political and economic. For innocence, read–if you will–ignorance. The seminaries teach next to nothing in these disciplines, and candidates for Holy Orders–with some honorable exceptions–seem to have acquired but scanty information about the civil social order before they begin to proceed to a school of theology.

I certainly do not desire to return our men of the cloth to the illusion of the Social Gospel–now a dying influence. Yet though minister and priest ought not to set up as arbiters of things secular, still they must be concerned with the relationship between religious doctrine and the art of worldly wisdom. For this,...