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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

A Botched Look at Social Virtues

Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man, argues that ideological conflicts are over and that the world is converging on democracy-cum-capitalism, with national economies integrated into a global one. However, democracy and capitalism require a healthy civil society, which itself depends on “a people’s habits, customs, and ethics,” which must be “nourished through an increased awareness and respect for culture.” (p. 5)

Everyone, Fukuyama maintains, has a deep desire “to have his or her dignity recognized (i.e., evaluated at its proper worth)” by others, which can only occur in a social setting. Recognition-seeking now occurs primarily in the economic realm, making economics perhaps the most crucial way in which culture affects social well-being. Trust...

Civilization Held Together by Persuasion, Not Force

R&L: You have written, “The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.” Could you explain what you mean by this?

Skousen: I made this statement in a pamphlet I wrote several years ago titled “Persuasion vs. Force.” Alfred North Whitehead, the British philosopher and Harvard professor, elaborated when he said, “Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and government compulsion exemplify the reign of force.” (Adventures of Ideas, p. 83)

The point is this: every time we pass another law or regulation, every time we raise taxes, every time we go to war, we are admitting failure of individuals to govern themselves. When we persuade citizens to do the right thing, we can claim victory. But...

Islam and Markets

The relationship between Islam and trade is not well appreciated in the West. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his wife Khadija were both merchants. The Qur’an, the Muslim scripture, is filled with parables using the language of trade. It was merchants, not soldiers, who were mainly responsible for the spread of Islam throughout the world.

Conversely, the rise of the Islamic civilization contributed to the progress of economic development and economic theory. In his history of economics, Murray Rothbard noted the more advanced understanding of markets found among the Scholastics and in the sixteenth-century school of Salamanca, compared to that of the ancient Greeks.1 The Muslim influence on these schools is expected. The Scholastics inherited Greek...

The Capitalist Structures of Hinduism

The argument that the free market and Christianity are compatible will be strengthened if it can be shown that the same is true for other religions. We will therefore attempt this project using Hinduism as our referent.

In discussing this subject, we must keep in mind two characteristics of Indian culture. First, the typical Western split between the religious and the socio-economic realms is very limited in Hinduism, as it is indeed for most Oriental mentalities; practical social morality is supposed to agree with religious and philosophical precepts. Thus, codes of law which presumably derive from the latter can be regarded as part of Hinduism. Second, as there is no central religious authority to establish orthodoxy, the teachings of recognized spiritual masters are usually incorporated into Hinduism. In...

The Universality of the Market

This issue of Religion & Liberty is built around a theme: People of different religious traditions can provide a defense for the free market that is informed by their faith.

This fact demonstrates an important point about the market; it is not a theoretical construct that springs forth from a particular philosophic or religious framework, even if human liberty is better defended from within social structures inspired by certain theological premises than others. It is a way to describe how people interact economically. In other words, the market is “merely” the sum of economic behavior of men and women. It is a way of describing what Adam Smith identified as our natural propensity to “truck and barter.” The market therefore cannot be abolished – Soviet Russia tried, and failed...

San Bernardino de Siena

San Bernardino de Siena, El “Apóstol de Italia ", fue un misionero, reformador y economista del escolasticismo medieval. Nació en la ciudad de Massa Marittima en Toscana, de la familia noble Albizzeschi. Después de haber ayudado a los enfermos durante la gran peste desatada en Siena en 1400, entró en la Orden de los Franciscanos. En sus viajes a pie por toda Italia se convirtió en un predicador muy popular y conocido. Durante su ministerio se le ofreció el obispado tres veces, a lo cual se negó siempre, ya que tendría que abandonar lo que él sentía como su...

San Bernardino da Siena

San Bernardino da Siena, l'Apostolo d’ Italia, è stato un missionario riformatore e un economista d’orientamento scolastico. Nacque nella cittadina di Massa Marittima in Toscana, da la famiglia nobile Albizzeschi. Dopo aver prestato soccorso ai malati durante la grande pestilenza scoppiata a Siena nel 1400, entrò nell’ ordine dei francescani. Nel suo vagabondare a piedi attraverso tutta l’Italia, divenne un predicatore molto popolare e conosciuto. Durante il suo ministero gli fu offerto di diventare vescovo per ben tre volte, cosa che egli rifiutò, poiché avrebbe dovuto...

St. Bernardino of Siena

St. Bernardino of Siena, the “Apostle of Italy,” was a missionary, reformer, and scholastic economist. He was born of the noble family of Albizeschi in the Tuscan town of Massa Marittima. After taking care of the sick during a great plague in Siena in 1400, he entered the Franciscan order. He became a well-known and popular preacher, traveling throughout Italy on foot. He was offered bishoprics three times during his ministry, which he refused because he would have had to give up what he felt was his primary calling, that of a missionary.

Bernardino was the great systematizer of Scholastic economics after...

Making Men Moral

Robert P. George is a Princeton professor, first Vice President of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In this book, he has done an admirable job of combining his fields of philosophy (John Finnis was his mentor), law, and political science to analyze the difficult question of how liberal democracy can enact laws that seek to promote civility and personal goodness while upholding basic individual liberties. Although much of the work critically examines the thought of various contemporary legal philosophers and scholars (all of whom oppose, for the most part, the notion of morals legislation) and can be tedious in places, it is fairly easily readable for the layman.

The book is laid out in three parts. The first reviews the thought of Aristotle...

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Recent years have brought to the fore a drumbeat of complaints from evangelical intellectuals bemoaning the ineffectual work of evangelical intellectuals. This theme has been sounded recently by Os Guinness, David Wells, and John Seel, among others, and now Mark Noll weighs in. Noll believes that American evangelicals have made small contribution to the intellectual life of the nation and so have failed not only in their civic duty, but also their religious responsibilities. Christians who take seriously the sovereignty of God over the creation should recognize the theological implications this has for study and reflection about the physical and social world, and not leave that vital task to others. There are plenty of evangelicals who possess academic credentials, but Noll believes they come up with very little that is both...

Faith Essential Ingredient of Democratic Capitalism

R&L: You opened your essay in Reinventing the American People, a recent book from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, by noting that a long line of political theorists, dating back to the days of the Romans, would regard you as “a dangerous man, a threat to the public order” because you are “an orthodox Christian.” What is the appropriate way for Christians to be political?

Weigel: My book, Soul of the World, begins with this claim: The most important thing Christians say about everything is that “Jesus is Lord.” And that “everything” most certainly includes politics. The Lordship of Christ is the greatest truth in history, and about history; the Lordship of Christ is a great barrier against absolutizing politics, which has been one of the great...

The Protestant-Communal Foundations of American Political Thought

In 1819, Benjamin Constant argued that the apparently unitary concept of liberty in actuality described two sharply distinct understandings: one variant which was most “dear to the ancient peoples,” and the second which was “especially precious to the modern nations.” He explained that what most differentiated these two understandings of liberty was the status awarded to the individual. Indeed, ancient political liberty was fully compatible with “the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community.” From this perspective, “no importance was given to individual independence,” and each individual “was a slave in all his private relations.” Conversely, modern liberty, he explained, is most concerned with protecting private pleasures or individual independence, which he claimed was “the true modern liberty.”...

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the State

One casualty during the heyday of secularism was the historic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. A once virtually-universal voice, which for centuries had been the dominant Christian voice on political matters in many nations, was shunned by secular and atheistic political models. Besides secularism, there has also been a virtual symbiosis of the Protestant Reformation and the spread of western democracies; thus in much of the western world, Roman Catholic political theology frequently remained unknown. Yet, there is a rich tradition–not to mention a recent revival–of officially-codified systematic teaching on matters of state. The following survey of Roman Catholic teaching, taken from the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, is selected to stress many of the themes that have also been explicated...

The Entrepreneur as Servant

“If anyone wants to be the first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35

Lent has been traditionally the season in the Christian calendar for believers to prepare their hearts for the miraculous work of Easter. It is a time to be reminded that the way of the cross is a way of suffering and service, a way embodied by Jesus Christ. Thoughtful and holy men and women throughout the history of the Church have recognized this fact of faith, and dedicated their lives to such radical service. We ought to be inspired by their examples, and recognize that those who serve are indeed the greatest among us.

But there is one type of servant which has been ignored by most church leaders–the entrepreneur. One sees evidence of the prejudice against him...

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot

It was 1774, and decades of expensive and ill-advised government ventures left the regime of Louis the XVI fiscally overstretched and teetering, once again, on the edge of bankruptcy. Thus was the situation when Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, the baron de l' Aulne, was appointed France's Minister of Finance.

A.R.J. Turgot was born in Paris to a distinguished Norman family which had long served as important royal officials. He earned honors first at the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice, and then at the great theological faculty of the University of Paris, the Sorbonne. He was expected to enter the clergy, but instead...