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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Toward a New Liberty

The 1991 papal encyclical Centesimus Annus has been described as prompting a springtime in Christian social teaching because it makes it easier to see freedom, specifically economic freedom, as a moral mandate. The sad truth is that the two traditions that come together in Centesimus Annus–religious orthodoxy and classical liberal social theory–have appeared to be at odds with each other for the better part of three centuries.

Although the classical liberal tradition sprang out of a Christian humanism rooted in the scholastic tradition, some of the classical liberals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while keeping the scholastic’s habit of rigorous social thought, abandoned their high regard for ecclesiastical and social authority. And the Church, during certain...

Adam Smith

Adam Smith es aquel que más que nadie ha explicado qué es el capitalismo. Nació en Kirkaldy, en Escocia, una pequeña ciudad costera cerca de Edimburgo. Smith se formó en la Universidad de Glasgow y en el Ballioll College de Oxford, en Inglaterra. Más tarde,enseñó en Edimburgo y se convirtió en profesor de la Universidad de Glasgow. Poco después, Smith partió para Francia como preceptor del Duque de Buccleugh y allí se reunió con Quesnay, Turgot, y Voltaire. Durante el período francés, Smith comenzó a escribir La Riqueza de las Naciones...

Adam Smith

Adam Smith è colui che più di tutti ha spiegato che cos’è il capitalismo. Nacque a Kirkaldy, in Scozia, una piccola città costiera vicino Edimburgo. Smith si formò all’Università di Glasgow e al Ballioll College di Oxford, in Inghilterra. In seguito insegnò ad Edimburgo e divenne professore all’Università di Glasgow. Poco dopo, Smith partì per la Francia come precettore del Duca di Buccleugh e lì incontrò Quesnay, Turgot e Voltaire. Durante il periodo francese, Smith iniziò a scrivere La ricchezza delle nazioni che concluse dopo il suo ritorno in Scozia...

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is the most well-known expositor of capitalism of all time. He was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, a small coastal town near Edinburgh. Smith was educated at Glasgow University and Ballioll College in Oxford, England. Later he lectured at Edinburgh and became a professor at Glasgow University. After a time, Smith went to France to tutor the Duke of Buccleugh and met Quesmay, Turgot, and Voltaire. While in France, Smith began to write The Wealth of Nations and continued writing it upon his return to Scotland. This influential work was published in 1776. In 1778 he followed in...

Capitalism

In the last century, every important economist aspired to write a complete treatise on economic thought. The idea was to build up an airtight theory, primarily by use of deductive logic, to explain how people overcome a central human predicament: Material desires always exceed resources, so what system should societies adopt in order to meet limitless needs and become prosperous? Building a theory from the ground up was the means of demonstrating a theory’s validity, allowing the reader to evaluate the merit of each step as the economist takes it.

These days, a systematic treatise such as Capitalism appears, at best, once every couple of generations. The last two on record are Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (1949) and Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State (...

Evangelical Political Activism: Faith and Prudence

The political resurgence of America’s evangelical community raises anew ever-important questions about religion and politics. In The Politics of Reason and Revelation, John West revisits some of those questions: “Does religion have a political role, and if so, what should it be? What are the advantages of religion in politics? What are the dangers? And how can people of faith bring their religious beliefs to bear on public issues without dividing citizens along religious lines and infringing on the liberty of conscience of those who do not share their religious views?” West addresses these questions by examining the American founding and nineteenth-century evangelical activism in a manner that sheds light on contemporary developments.

Recent evangelical political initiatives have been met...

Good Financial Stewardship Part of God's Economy

R&L: As a Christian financial advisor, how do you understand the connection between your faith and the world of economics and finances?

Burkett: I believe there is a direct link between faith and finances. In the New Testament, our Lord gives us, depending on how you count them, around thirty-four parables, two-thirds of which deal with the subject of money. I believe Jesus uses money as teaching tool to illustrate graphically this point: The way we handle financial matters is an indicator of the way we handle spiritual matters.

That is what Jesus meant when he said, “If you are not faithful with the smallest of things, you will not be faithful with larger things either.” Money is just one of those smaller things.

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The Reformation Roots of Social Contract

Contrary to much secular thought, the historic emergence of a social contract that guarantees human liberty stems from the seedbed of Geneva’s Reformation. To be sure, a different social contract, the humanist one, had its cradle in the secular thinking of the Enlightenment. The one I refer to as the social covenant (to distinguish) has resisted tyranny, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism with consistent and irrepressible force; the other has led to oppression, large-scale loss of life, and the general diminution of liberty, both economic and personal.

Following is a brief review of five leading tracts from the Reformation period that had wide and enduring political impact in support of liberty: The Right of Magistrates (1574) by Theodore Beza, The Rights of the Crown of Scotland...

Scholastic Economics: Thomistic Value Theory

It has been seventy years since historian Richard Henry Tawney concluded in his Religion and the Rise of Capitalism that, “the true descendant of the doctrines of Aquinas is the labor theory of value.” By this, he appears to mean that Saint Thomas Aquinas’ writings in value theory entail the proposition that the basis of value of an economic good is the amount of human labor expended in producing it. Thus, Tawney adds, “the last of the Schoolmen was Karl Marx.” Tawney was, of course, mistaken.

From Aquinas to Marx

Economics, as understood in the modern sense, occupied a subordinate place in relation to ethics and law in Catholic medieval doctrine. Within this framework, economic value was not regarded as an intrinsic quality but, rather, as the physical, mental, and moral...

Of Markets and Morality

The great mantra of this prevailing culture of self-absorption is tolerance: If only everyone, everywhere, and under all circumstances could only be tolerant, we are assured, what a wonderful and peaceful world it would be. This kind of illiberal faith, this chic toleration, is so intolerant as to assert the truth claims of orthodox Judaism and Christianity. The problem with this arrogance (which always fails to see its own arrogance) is that it presumes that the Jewish and Christian reliance on the use of faith to apprehend some truths diminishes the importance of the mind, and hence, man himself.

This modern, liberal mindset begins by rejecting revelation, but in the course of its intellectual trajectory it must undermine not merely Biblical truth-claims but any claim to know truth. It does so to...

Lyman Beecher

In the early 1800s, Presbyterian divine Lyman Beecher faced a culture in crisis: Alcoholism, poverty, illiteracy, and other social ills were on the rise, and church attendance was in decline. Furthermore, the policy of state-funded, state-established churches was fading. How, then, was the United States-with a republican form of government that requires a virtuous society and a strong private sector-to respond to these challenges?

Lyman Beecher is remembered today primarily through the accomplishments of his children, among whom was abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher, and author of ...

Renewing American Compassion

We hardly need another polemic about the failure of America’s “war on poverty.” After decades of bitter wrangling and torpid inaction, there is at last a broad consensus that the welfare system is a cure no less malignant than the disease it was intended to remedy. Liberals and conservatives, politicians and program administrators, social workers and taxpayers have all been forced to acknowledge that the poor are not best served by our current lumbering and impersonal entitlement bureaucracy. They never have been. They never will be. On this, we now all agree.

Thankfully, Marvin Olasky recognizes this remarkable fact and does not belabor the obvious. His book Renewing American Compassion is instead a survey and evaluation of contemporary poverty relief efforts—both privately...

Learning Charity from an Exemplar

In the past three years on visits to church-based urban ministries nationwide, I have interviewed dozens of down-and-outers who have become up-and-comers: ex-welfare recipients, victims of domestic violence, former drug addicts, ex-cons. When I asked them what helped them turn their lives around, almost all responded, “A friend who cared.” Effective ministries know that friendship is a powerful poverty-fighting tool. Tragically, though, many church benevolence programs emphasize commodities—cash, clothing, and groceries—over relationships. In today’s welfare reform climate, as greater responsibility for needy families shifts from the public to the private sector, churches need to reassess their own outreach strategy. They can learn much from a recently published collection of short essays by Octavia Hill, a...

Local Communities Are Charity's Resource of First Resort

R&L: What are your views on the nature of the welfare state and the need for its reform?

Santorum: What we have had with our public assistance programs over the past thirty or more years is a system that was very bureaucratic, very clinical. It did not require much, if any, responsibility—in fact, I would argue that it rewarded irresponsibility. And the system did not provide much incentive or opportunity for recipients to escape public assistance programs. In most cases the only contact recipients had with the kind of “help” we were providing was to receive a check—usually from some faceless government worker hiding behind bulletproof glass.

Seeing what these federally run programs have created was evidence enough for me to want to...

Healing Lives, One Person at a Time

Her name was Anna. Her mother was an alcoholic, and she and her live-in boyfriend were unemployed. Looking for an apartment and a job was overwhelming, because she had never done so before. She had no savings, no furniture, and few clothes. Anna was estranged from her older daughter and her husband. She was cynical and believed in nothing because she had seen little in life to trust. Truth was a matter of expediency to her—she did and said what she needed to, in order to get along, get a check, and keep her subsidized apartment. No, Anna is not an American welfare mother. She came from East Berlin just as the Berlin Wall fell, but she suffers from the same malady as her counterparts in the inner cities of Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles today. The victims of socialism have the same sickness as the victims of the welfare...