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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Letter to the Bishops of the Church of Sweden

This essay–originally printed in Swedish in 1994–was prompted by the 1993 pastoral letter, “On the Rich and the Poor,” from the bishops of the Church of Sweden, formerly the established church. The following was written as a letter in reply, not to attack the bishops or the church, but to clarify what has been distorted by some of the bishops’ formulations.

The bishops’ pastoral letter was given considerable attention in Sweden when it was published, as was this reply. It appears here in English for the first time. The first half appears in this issue; the second will appear in the next issue.

“Maybe the science which makes the community everything and ignores the individual, will to a future sober assessment seem as mythological and fantastic...

The Principle of Subsidiarity

One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.

This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies...

The State Invades the Confessional

Religious conservatives are sometimes skeptical that church and state should be separated. Here’s one case for keeping the two apart: the Church, and the faith it promulgates, must be protected from invasion by secular authorities. This is especially crucial in our times when few spheres of life are protected from violation by secular authorities. We live in a culture of statism, when police power operates as if it were the highest social authority. Given this, the Church must retain the sovereignty and independence to stand up to government and say, when it becomes necessary, your authority stops here.

The moral urgency of this came home recently to a priest in Eugene, Oregon. In April, Fr. Tim Mockaitis of St. Paul parish traveled to the Lane County jail on request. An inmate had requested that a priest...

Ibn Jaldún

Ibn Jaldún, considerado el más grande historiador árabe, también conocido como el padre de la ciencia social moderna y de la historia de la cultura. Nacido en Túnez proveniente de una familia devota e influyente, su primera educación se caracterizó por el estímulo intelectual que este tipo de influencia otorgaba. En 1349 la Muerte Negra golpeó Túnez  tomando consigo a su madre y su padre, así como a muchos de sus profesores. Consecuentemente estaba luego ansioso de dejar atrás la soledad de Túnez y trasladarse a Fez, el centro neurálgico de la vida...

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun, considerato il più grande storico arabo, è anche conosciuto come il padre della moderna scienza sociale e della storia della cultura. Nato a Tunisi da una devota ed influente famiglia, la sua prima educazione fu segnata dallo stimolo intellettuale che una tale influenza comportava. Nel 1349 la Morte Nera colpì Tunisi e prese con sé la madre e il padre, oltre a tanti suoi maestri. A questo punto manifestò il desiderio di lasciare la solitudine di Tunisi per trasferirsi a Fez, il centro nevralgico della vita politica e culturale del Nord Africa. Tuttavia, Ibn Khaldun era uno spirito irrequieto...

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun, considered the greatest Arab historian, is also known as the father of modern social science and cultural history. Born in Tunis to a politically influential and devout family, his early education was marked by the high intellectual stimulation that such affluence afforded. In 1349 the Black Death struck Tunis and took away his mother and father, as well as many of his teachers. He was therefore eager to exchange the loneliness of Tunis for a political post in Fez, the current center of political power and cultural life in North Africa. But Ibn Khaldun had a restless spirit, and spent much time traveling from city to city and from political post...

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...