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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

What Exactly is a Think Tank?

A think tank doesn’t just catalogue ideas, but participates in and promotes the free exchange of ideas. While we seek to address a host of problems and propose solutions from a foundational stand point, our freedom and independence at the Acton Institute is a valuable asset. Some critics of think tanks simply assume they are only extensions of controlling interests or have little impact on the public debate.

Ideas often have the power to transform the thinking of those at the grassroots level of policy and thus equally influence those in the circles of power. Margaret Thatcher’s privatization reforms in the United Kingdom were significantly guided by the Institute of Economic Affairs. In addition, this institution played a substantial role in other reforms in the U.K. as well.

This is of course one example of many where think tanks play a vital role in...

Good Capitalism Bad Capitalism, and the economics of growth and prosperity

Good Capitalism

The authors of Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism explain why capitalism is not a monolithic construct. Before the end of the Cold War there was a perception that capitalist economies were generally the same, due to the stark contrasts between Western economies and Soviet-style command economies. Authors William J. Baumol, Robert E. Litan, and Carl J. Schramm draw out distinctions between different forms of capitalism and which models best promote growth and productivity. The four main types they identify are oligarchic capitalism, state guided capitalism, big firm capitalism, and entrepreneurial capitalism. While all of these systems respect property rights to one degree or another, the authors argue that there are significant differences...

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

Development remains the most pressing human question in economics. As interesting as stock market models might be or monetary policy in managing the business cycle, the most fundamental question in economics is that of growth. What leads to economic growth? And how can those who are poorest realize the benefits of growth?

Every few years a book comes along that makes a significant contribution to our thinking about those most important questions. One thinks of the work a few years ago of Hernando de Soto in The Mystery of Capital, which proposed thinking about the slum-dwellers of Latin America as potential entrepreneurs, if only they could access the small capital locked away in their slum dwellings.

A similarly important contribution has been made by Paul Collier, professor of economics and director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University....

The CEO Serves: Moral Purpose and Business Leadership

Edward M. Kopko
Edward M. Kopko

A lot of critics are taking potshots at CEOs these days. They make too much money, they have too much power, and they run companies—like Enron and Arthur Andersen—only to line their own pockets at the expense of shareholders, employees, and the public, or so the story seems to go. Do CEOs feel as though they’re under siege?

Chief executives generally believe that they are not well understood and have been made almost into cartoon characters by some in the media. When was the last time you saw a movie where the CEO of a company was depicted as a good guy? They may not be under siege as they were back a few years ago during the Enron period, but...

Editor's Note

Sometimes before you get to the main argument, you have to argue about what you are arguing about. Perhaps that seems tedious, but if you bear with me, you might be convinced that it is important. This issue of Religion & Liberty features several pieces that try to clarify what we are arguing about.

Our new managing editor, Ray Nothstine, reviews Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and praises the authors for sorting out the many phenomena that are described as capitalism. Oligarchic capitalism is not the same as entrepreneurial capitalism, and defenders of economic liberty should not burden themselves with defending the former. Liberty is not the same thing as capitalism, and there are variants of capitalism that threaten liberty. After all, a moral look at the economy does not defend capital as a good in itself, but rather human freedom as the desired goal.

Welcome,...

Lord Ralph Harris of Highcross

Born in Tottenham in 1924, Lord Ralph Harris was a foremost champion for free markets in twentieth century Great Britain. After a first in Economics at Cambridge and a subsequent teaching stint at St. Andrew's University, Lord Harris became general director of the Institute for Economic Affairs in 1957 (Lord Harris would hold the post of founding director until 1987). This institute would lay the intellectual groundwork for the vast free-market reforms in late 1970s and 1980s Great Britain. For this, Lord Harris earned the moniker “The Architect of Thatcherism.” A famous story relates how Harris teased Margaret Thatcher about this moniker,...

Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics

After completing Stephen J. Grabill's book on the natural law in the thought of the Protestant Reformers, I wished - briefly - that he did not work at the Acton Institute. He has written a very important book, and I didn't want my recommendation of it to be tainted by favoritism toward a colleague and friend.

That said, Grabill's book can more than stand on its own. It is a work of true scholarship; its origin as a doctoral thesis means that it is not a breezy read. The scholarly apparatus is heavy, as it needs be, for Grabill is out to challenge the conventional wisdom.

The concept of “natural law” in Christian ethics is generally considered to be a Catholic way of thinking. The natural law does not refer to the law of the nature - where the strong lion eats the sick antelope - but to what reason alone, reflecting upon human nature, can conclude about how we should act....

America's Challenge


Chuck Colson

What intellectual tools do Christians need to effectively protect the truth in a post-Christian world, and do Christians have those tools?

The first part of the answer is more complicated, so I'll answer the second part first. First, no, Christians do not have the tools today. Most people don't realize what a central issue this is. And Schaeffer used to preach about this a generation ago, and he would say, “The issue is truth! Flaming truth! True truth!” And people listened to him. Typical of all evangelical churches, they say, “Oh, that's great he's doing that,” but nobody takes him seriously. Through the Centurions Program, I'm trying to teach people how to teach truth. I think it can be done,...

Politics and Independence


Rev. Robert Sirico

On the question of religion and politics, it seems like the Christian community is forever sliding between two errors. On the one hand, there is a long tendency to eschew politics as too worldly and unbecoming to Christian piety. If we place our hopes in the afterlife, why should we dedicate ourselves to political change now? This is the error of quietism, which calls for quiet contemplation and prayer and totally eschews any action. Yet God calls some to a political role in the hope of making a difference in the world. There is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, our faith calls for a cultural transformation. It is not satisfied with individual piety alone.

On the other hand, there is the...

Recovering the Catholicity of Protestant Theological Ethics


Stephen Grabill

The following has been excerpted from Recovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics , released last autumn from Eerdmans.

While the Protestant Reformers inherited the natural-law tradition from their late medieval predecessors without serious question, their later heirs have, more often than not, assumed a critical stance of discontinuity in relation to natural law. In fact, according to one scholar whose views —though well documented and respected —still typify a minority position in contemporary Protestant historiography, “There is not real discontinuity between the teaching of the Reformers and that of their predecessors with respect to natural law.” With the possible...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Isaiah 52:8—15

“Hark! Your watchmen raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, come forth from there, touch nothing unclean! Out from there! Purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. Yet not in fearful haste will you come out, nor leave in headlong flight, for the Lord comes before you, and your rear guard is the God of Israel. See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him—so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals—so shall he startle many...

Editor's Note

In our feature interview in this issue of R&L, Chuck Colson makes reference to the now-famous lecture Pope Benedict XVI gave at Regensburg last September. The heart of that lecture was the relationship of faith and reason. In the course of arguing that each needs the other, Benedict raised questions about Islam which garnered worldwide attention.

But Benedict's point was not principally about Islam. His point was that religious faith, when not purified by reason, can lose its way, even to the extremes of fanaticism and violence. He reminded his listeners that the temptation to neglect reason has been faced in the history of Christianity - mentioning by name the Catholic philosopher Duns Scotus and some currents of thought animating the Protestant Reformation.

One of the areas where faith meets reason is in the encounter between religion and science. The work of...

Jewish Theology and Economic Theory

This article has been excerpted from the upcoming monograph, Judaism, Markets, and Capitalism: Separating Myths from Reality.

There has been very little work by orthodox Jewish scholars on the relationship among socialism, capitalism, and Judaism. Careful reading of the relevant literature, however, suggests that it is possible to posit five basic axioms of Jewish economic theory from which many economic policy implications can be deduced. Although not exhaustive, our five axioms represent, to the best of our knowledge, the first attempt to formulate a parsimonious list of basic principles that help systematize the foundations of what we are calling Jewish economic theory.

Participation in the Creative Process

The first axiom of Jewish economic theory that we posit is: “Man is created in God's image.” In Judaism, this statement is...

The Creative Imperative


Dr. Samuel Gregg

This article was excerpted from Samuel Gregg's The Commercial Society—Foundations and Challenges in a Global Age , a new book published by Lexington Books.

Commercial society's impact upon poverty is not simply a result of the unintended consequences of market exchange. It owes much to commercial society's particular moral foundations. By moral foundations, we mean particular values and habits of action indispensable for the workings of commercial society. What follows is an attempt to describe commercial society's basic moral foundations. Taken together, these habits and values do not suffice for a society that wishes to merit the title humane or civilized. Nor are they exclusive to commercial...

The Challenge of Globalization to the Church

The Acton Institute is midway through a series of lectures—eight in Rome and one in Poland—celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Centesimus Annus , Pope John Paul II's landmark social encyclical. The lecture series started in October 2005 and will continue through 2007. The following is taken from Centesimus Annus, Globalization, and Individual Development , an upcoming monograph itself [expanded] from Lord Griffiths's address delivered on October 19, 2006, in Rome.


© Hilary Quinn. Image from Stock.xchng.com

The church has the potential to tackle world poverty and to change the culture of globalization in a way that governments and international institutions do not. It is very easy in considering...