Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Free Market Environmentalism

In the decade or so preceding her death this past spring, the noted scientist and occasional politician, Dr. Dixy Lee Ray, earned a reputation as the nation's most insightful critic of modern environmentalism. In a letter written three years before her death, she summed up what she had learned, observing that environmentalism, “as we have come to know it in the waning years of the twentieth century,” is “anti-development, anti-progress, anti-technology, anti-business, anti-established institutions, and, above all, anti-capitalism.”

Many in the environmental movement would agree. A published report in the newsletter of the Earth First! environmentalist group, for example, says “industrialism [is] the main force behind the environmental crises.” One noted environmentalist, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, says...


The authors of Eco-Sanity have addressed a formidable challenge in bringing empirical analysis to the religious subject of environmentalism. By looking at a wide array of issues, they give readers a solid sense of the diversity of environmental problems as well as the recurrent similarities. They have done a commendable job, and I admire their efforts.

However, I encourage the authors and sympathetic readers to defer optimism about the impact of this book's important perspective. We should carefully separate our hopes from our expectations when dealing with the prospect of environmental reforms. Even solid analysis, compelling recommendations, and substantively important payoffs do not guarantee useful reforms.

Existing laws, regulations, and perspectives are seldom accidents...

Environmental Overkill

If one believes what passes for science these days, the world is about to end. The globe is warming, ozone is disappearing, smog is expanding, forests are shrinking, species are dying, and carcinogens are spreading. What were once thought to be good--population growth and technological advance--are actually bad. Without radical change, it is said, the environment and mankind are doomed.

Sadly, this is what Vice President Gore, Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner, a host of congressmen and senators, and much of the media establishment believe. As a result, federal policy is becoming increasingly costly and draconian making Americans both poorer and less free. This course might arguably be worth it if the result would be to save us from otherwise certain destruction.


Earth in the Balance

There has been much talk in the last couple of months about the Religious Right's growing involvement and influence within the Republican Party. Amid all the concern about the threat to our civil liberties represented by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, the media has greatly neglected the emergence of a more serious menace: Capture of the Democratic Party by the Ecological Religious Left.

Vice President Al Gore has emerged as the spokesman of eco-paganism, a pantheistic prophet of global environmental catastrophe. As made clear in his book, Earth in the Balance, Gore envisions himself as the leader of an international movement to make “the rescue of the environment ... the central organizing principle for civilization.”

Gore's treatise on environmentalism became a...

Population Growth Benefits the Environment

R&L: You have written extensively on the subject of population growth. Could you explain the thesis of your argument that population growth and density are beneficial for countries in the long run.

Simon: Population growth does not have a statistically negative effect upon economic growth. We know that from 30 years of careful quantitative scientific studies-just the opposite of what the public believes. Because human knowledge allows us to produce more finished products out of fewer raw materials, natural resources are becoming more available. The air and water in rich countries are becoming cleaner. Most importantly, human beings are living much longer than ever before.

R&L: Yet we hear the fear that if there are too many...

The Ecological Gospel

David Brower is, by wide agreement, the most influential environmentalist of the past 50 years. In the 1950s and 1960s he pioneered many of the tactics later used by environmentalists to stop the construction of dams, roads, shopping centers, and all manner of projects all over the United States. He was the executive director of the Sierra Club for seventeen years, and later founded another environmental organization, Friends of the Earth.

Brower was also a leading figure in a book by one of the most observant chroniclers of our time, John McPhee. In Encounters with the Archdruid, McPhee wrote in 1971 that “Brower, who talks to groups all over the country about conservation, refers to what he says as The Sermon.” McPhee found that, “to put it mildly, there is something evangelical about Brower. His approach...

On Coercive Environmental Education

In The Religion of Environmentalism, John K. Williams wrote “Extreme environmentalism ... is a decidedly dangerous religion. Its vision of the world and of humanity's place in it reeks of superstition. The pattern of behavior it prescribes is morally grotesque....”

Williams' sentiments are hardly unique. A growing number of people are disturbed by the methods and strategies used by the environmental special interest movement, particularly in the realm of environmental education. In a previous special edition of Religion & Liberty (Fall 1992), I wrote of how environmentalism is being taken to extremes--extremes in which man is viewed as intrinsically evil or incapable, having failed miserably at caring for the earth. As a result, nature worship and the elevation of “nature” above man are...

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, probablemente el hombre de iglesia de más relieve en la Inglaterra del siglo XIX, nacido en la ciudad de Londres proveniente de una madre hugonote y un padre de orientación religiosa bastante tolerante. Siendo miembro de la Iglesia de Inglaterra, sus ideas sobre la religión comenzaron a desviarse paulatinamente de aquellas de la Iglesia Evangélica de Inglaterra para convertirse en aquellas del ala más conservadora de la Iglesia Católica hasta que se convirtió definitivamente al Catolicismo Romano en 1845; poco después, fue ordenado sacerdote, y más tarde, fue elegido cardenal...

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, probabilmente l’uomo di chiesa di spicco dell’Inghilterra del XIX sec., nacque a Londra da una madre ugonotta e da un padre di orientamento religioso molto tollerante.

Ancora membro della Chiesa d’Inghilterra, le sue idee in fatto di religione cominciarono a deviare gradualmente da quelle della Chiesa Evangelica d’Inghilterra per abbracciare quelle dell’ala più conservatrice della Chiesa Cattolica finché non si convertì definitivamente al Cattolicesimo Romano nel 1845; subito dopo, venne ordinato prete, ed in seguito eletto cardinale da Papa Leone XIII nel 1879.

Quando era ancora un prete...

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, perhaps the most prominent churchman of nineteenth-century England, was born in the City of London to a Huguenot mother and a father of religiously broadminded sentiments. While a member of the Church of England, his views began to move gradually from low-church evangelical to high-church catholic until his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1845; soon after, he was ordained a Catholic priest, and was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879.

While an Anglican priest, he spent much of his time, both on and off the Oxford University campus, fighting a form of liberalism he called the “anti-dogmatic principle”:...

Candles behind the Wall

Since the collapse of the Soviet empire, legion has been the number of studies and theories seeking to explain how and why its end came about as it did. However, few are as convincing as that put forth by Barbara von der Heydt in her new book, Candles behind the Wall: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution That Shattered Communism. Von der Heydt’s thesis can be summed up in a phrase: communism failed because it was unable to make people forget about God.

To explain why the Iron Curtain came crashing down, most commentators have sought to focus their gaze through the conventional lens of economics and politics. In doing so, however, they have overlooked the fact that the political and economic crises paralyzing Eastern European communism by the late 1980s were the direct consequence of a prior...

When Austrians Came to America

Economists of the Austrian school in recent years, writes Karen Vaughn, “present no less than a fundamental challenge” to how members of their field view their work and the world around them. “At the very least,” she says, “Austrian economics is a complete reinterpretation of the methods, substance, and limitations of contemporary economics. At most, it is a radical, perhaps even revolutionary restructuring of economics.”

So she writes in the introduction to her splendid book, Austrian Economics in America: The Migration of a Tradition, the latest in a spate of books that signify the resurgence of interest in Austrian economics.

The publication of this book couldn’t be more timely. With the unparalleled collapse of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe and the...

The Time has Come to Reevaluate Strategy for Change

R&L: How valuable are mediating institutions to community life?

Higgins: They play an extraordinarily valuable role. The family is probably the most important institution. Yet it cannot flourish without communal support. Just the other day I was talking with a cab driver who works 12-plus hour days, as does his wife, in order to keep their children in private school which they believe is essential for their children’s success. But, while the parents were working outside of the home, the children had fallen in with some very bad company which led to parental discipline. The government then stepped in and told the parents to refrain from disciplining their children or they would be taken away and placed in foster care. This couple had already lost one child to this...

The State that Justifies

Many thought that a clear lesson about the size and function of the state had been learned from twentieth-century history, particularly with the collapse of communism. Human well-being required a very limited state. The state itself had turned into man’s greatest enemy, so its purpose and centrality needed rethinking. Economic prosperity could be best achieved through the free operation of the market.

Most institutions of culture should be left in the hands of voluntary agencies. These organs of culture–museums, galleries, and theaters–should not be administered by state bureaucracies. Education and the press should not be state-run monopolies. Religion should be free and encouraged. The state’s jurisdiction should be limited to general purposes like the common defense, policing,...

Reflections on the Bell Curve

Publication of the controversial book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray has opened a much-needed discussion about what we should do about the increasing stratification of our society.

Without trying to do violence to a thoughtful and detailed book by attempting a too-facile summary, I would outline the authors’ challenge as follows: It is clear that a “cognitive elite” and a permanent underclass exist at opposite ends of a bell curve of intelligence. It is equally clear that our economy is continuing a three or four decade trend to eliminate many (probably most) employment opportunities for those on the disadvantaged side, while three decades of social welfare programs have failed to help, and have probably worsened,...