Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Written on the Heart

Many Americans likely never heard of the concept of natural law until it was made an issue in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. As then, we would do well to consider a good, clear definition. In the broadest sense of the term, natural law embraces the whole field of morality.

Murder, adultery, incest, prostitution, theft are universally felt to be wrong; they run contrary to the natural law. Defense of one’s own life and that of others, the recognition of the distinct difference of human life from all other animate life, the preservation of human life (including that within the womb), philanthropy, marital fidelity, one’s right to property, all of these are recognized as goods, part of the natural moral order.

Johannes Grundel provides the classic...

The Futility of Coerced Benevolence

Tibor Machan’s Generosity: Virtue in Civil Society provides a fascinating and thorough treatment of the role of virtue in a society characterized by limited government, freedom of association, and economic liberty. Its thesis, according to Machan, is that “Generosity is a moral virtue that cannot flourish in a welfare state or in any sort of command economy, because to be generous is to voluntarily help others in certain ways. It will flourish in a free society.” Generosity and virtue cannot flourish without fully embracing economic, political, and personal liberty. As an example, Machan notes the importance of private property for magnanimous action. Generosity will not flourish in societies that do not respect private property because people cannot give away what is not theirs.


Pope John Paul II's Visit Heralds New Beginning for Cuba

R&L: In the weeks before Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba, there was a great deal of speculation as to what he would say and do during his time there. What were your expectations of the pope’s visit?

Paredes: Knowing how the Holy Father has addressed local churches around the world in the past, I had no doubt that he would challenge the Cubans to rediscover their faith and to value their traditions and religious identity.

R&L: Were your expectations fulfilled?

Paredes: We did not know what the response of the faithful in Cuba would be, so it was wonderful to see the huge manifestations of faith and devotion at the Masses with the Holy Father in Cuba’s public...

Natural Law and Modern Economics

It is probably fair to say that many Christian intellectuals regard the positivist, rationalist social sciences with some suspicion. Many Christians would reject outright the proposition that the human person can be studied with the same tools and with the same detachment as inanimate objects. Probably many more Christians would be willing to make limited use of social science research, without accepting the whole philosophical apparatus that seems to go with it.

Among the social sciences, economics would probably win the prize for having the most mechanistic, materialistic view of the human person and his motivations. My background in economics includes thorough training in mathematical modeling of human interactions, as well as in the Humean, Hobbesian subjectivist contractarian approach to...

Evangelicals and Economics

What does the field of economics have to offer evangelicals? The embrace of economics should be more than merely an excuse to put forward naive views about public policy. Instead, evangelicals should embrace the “economic way of thinking”–a rigorous study of the benefits and costs of personal decisions and public policy. That said, the study of economics is frequently limited in scope; thus, evangelicals would do well to learn the economic way of thinking, using a biblical worldview and applying it to topics of biblical concern.

Positive Versus Normative Economics

The distinction between “positive” and “normative” economics is one of the opening topics in most economics textbooks. Positive economics is meant to represent the “what is” portion of economic analysis; normative...

The Culture of Life, The Culture of the Market

Many who proclaim the culture of life fault the free market for devaluing human life and reducing people to mere economic actors, valued only for their earning potential or their productive capacity. Our times are characterized by a lack of respect for the dignity of the human person, but it is a tragedy to see our allies against the forces that degrade the human person hindered in their efforts because of a misunderstanding of the market economy. The interaction, tension, and ultimate reconciliation of the culture of the market and the culture of life is a subject worthy of deeper reflection.

First, let us be clear about definitions: The culture of life is the recognition that this life is a temporary stage of our eternal existence and that life itself is a gift entrusted to us by our Maker that...

Wojtyla's Thought, John Paul II's Pontificate

As the years of his pontificate mount up, so do the books devoted to this singular pope, with the promise of some good things still in store, notably the forthcoming biography by George Weigel. From many angles, one has sought to fathom John Paul II’s secret, or perhaps to glimpse his distinctive gifts at work, a contemplative actor surely but patiently shifting the tumblers of the vault of history. There are already several biographies to choose from, numerous collections of papal writings and speeches, clever analyses grinding any number of axes, and (for the intrepid) a cloudy and somewhat misleading translation of his Polish phenomenological studies.

The present volume is not another book about Pope John Paul II; rather, as the English translators’ title rightly suggests, it is about...

Virtue a Prerequisite for Economic and Political Freedom

R&L: In addition to managing one of the most successful investment firms in the nation, you are also a vigorous philanthropist, regularly funding such things as Christian outreach to the inner city. How is this related to your Christian commitment?

Friess: People will sometimes ask, “Why should I get involved in trying to solve society’s problems? Why don’t I just go to my Bible study and enjoy the ‘holy huddle’? It’s safe and secure there; why venture out where I’m going to get beat up?” As a kid I remember going to church and saying in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” After I asked Jesus to become the “chairman of my board” when I was thirty-eight years old, I knew that I could...

Human Capital and Poverty

The main purpose of economics is to understand and to help alleviate poverty, and there is an intimate and transparent relation between investments in human capital and the alleviation of poverty. That is the theme of my presentation.

The term human capital may not be familiar to all of you. Human capital refers to the skills, education, health, and training of individuals. It is capital because these skills or education are an integral part of us that is long-lasting, in the way a machine, plant, or factory lasts.

Prior to the nineteenth century, systematic investment in human capital was not important in any country. Expenditures on schooling, on-the-job training, and other forms of investment were quite small. This began to change radically during that century...

Subsidiarity and Health Care Reform

An employee of a large regional bank is concerned because the bank’s health insurance covers payment for abortions. She has no alternative source of insurance. Millions of others are in the same predicament, since most plans routinely fund the procedure.

Painful choices like the above are evolving out of a government/industry coalition that is rapidly but subtly concentrating power over the nation’s health care system. Notwithstanding the overwhelming political defeat of nationalized health care during the first term of the Clinton administration, policy “experts” are quietly socializing the system. The recent proposals to expand Medicare and child care are the latest examples of this strategy. As a result, each of us is losing control of our medical destiny and being drawn into an ethically...

Cuba is Part of the Pope's Evangelical Mission

Commentators are still trying to understand just what Pope John Paul II was up to in visiting Cuba. Surely, many muse, the most skillful geopolitical strategist to ever preside in the papal suites must have had a secret political agenda. Is he trying to do for Cuba what he did for Poland? Or, as several dispatches have suggested, does he feel an ideological attachment to Fidel Castro’s anticapitalist economics?

Both assessments are wrong, as is clear from the remarkable events that took place in Cuba the week of the papal visit. The point of his visit was illustrated to me by a local underground entrepreneur who is a very poor father of two. He pointed out that the first time he had seen Mr. Castro in a business suit was that week. He interpreted this as a sign of deference and a reminder that...

Antonio Rosmini-Serbati

En 1997 fue el bicentenario del nacimiento del sacerdote teólogo, reformador político, y además filósofo italiano, Antonio Rosmini. Durante una época marcada por un fermento de protesta que estaba socavando el orden establecido, Rosmini dedicó toda su vida a reconciliar la enseñanza de la Iglesia Católica – Romana con el pensamiento filosófico y político moderno. Él trató de armonizar las viejas ideas con las nuevas, mostrando como cada desarrollo efectivo fomenta el propio crecimiento sobre la base de principios inmutables. Sin embargo, su plan audaz lo convirti...

Antonio Rosmini-Serbati

Il 1997 è stato il bicentenario della nascita del prete teologo, riformatore politico, nonché filosofo italiano, Antonio Rosmini. Durante un’epoca segnata da un fermento di protesta che minava l’establishment, Rosmini dedicò la sua intera vita a riconciliare l’insegnamento della Chiesa romano-cattolica con il pensiero filosofico e politico moderno. Egli cercò di armonizzare le vecchie idee con le nuove mostrando come ogni sviluppo effettivo fondi la propria crescita sulla base di principi immutabili. Tuttavia il suo audace progetto lo rese una figura controversa sia all’interno della Chiesa che all’esterno.

Rosmini poneva fermamente alla base della legge e della politica la dignità della persona umana. Secondo il suo pensiero, la libertà e la proprietà privata...

Antonio Rosmini-Serbati

1997 was the bicentennial of the birth of the Italian priest, theologian, political reformer, and philosopher, Antonio Rosmini. During a time marked by ferment against the established order, Rosmini dedicated his life to reconciling Roman Catholic teaching with modern philosophical and political thought. He sought to harmonize old and new ideas by showing how any true development depends on growth from basic, immutable principles. His bold project made him a controversial figure both inside and outside the church.

Rosmini firmly grounded law and politics in the dignity of the human person. According to him, freedom and private property...

American Catholic

The American Roman Catholic is a curious animal, forever trying to modify the docile, traditional, receptive spirit of the Catholic by the independent, innovative, frontier mentality of the American. Results of his endeavor vary from the impressive and influential to the disedifying and disastrous. His task is never-ending simply because it is impossible: “American” cannot modify “Catholic.”

In the aptly named American Catholic, Charles Morris seeks to give the definitive history of this creature. From the start, he acknowledges the inherent tension between a church anchored in dogma and tradition and a culture based on innovation and individualism. The Catholic Church and the United States have had quite a past, and Morris provides a captivating account of their stormy relationship....