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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

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...

The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832

Large sympathy must inform a reading of The Language of Liberty, for its heterodox reading of the substance of the American Revolution strains against its very helpful survey of the rhetoric of the Revolution. That the American revolutionaries were, in the main, a religious and not a secular people is obvious and beyond cavil, despite the impression conveyed by secular historians of later eras. Clark conveys this suitably and accurately, justifying throughout the book his conclusion that “democracy–in the sense of debates over the franchise, the distribution of seats, or the representative machinery in general–was not central to the conflict which rent the English-speaking world in the early-modern period, and was not at the heart of the self-image of any of the societies which made up that world....

Private Solutions: The Best Hope for Cultural Renewal

R&L: In your book Transforming America from the Inside Out, you diagnose America’s social condition as “Cultural AIDS”. That has become a controversial metaphor. What do you mean by “Cultural AIDS” and why is it more accurate than the common phrase “culture wars”?

James: The concept of culture wars is that there are two, three, perhaps four cultures in America that are clashing with one another, and the strongest will ultimately survive. I believe, however, that America at its core has an identity, a culture that represents who we are as a nation. I see that culture as sick and dying. That is true because those institutions in our culture that historically provided a shield for us against the pathologies of our communities are breaking down. These pathologies...

The Necessity of Moral Absolutes in a Free Society

Editor's Note: The following remarks were delivered by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the Acton Institute’s Fourth Anniversary Dinner at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 5, 1994.

I am truly honored to be with each of you this evening. And, the honor is magnified because I can be here with my wife and best friend. I thank Father Sirico for his patience and persistence. He was kind enough to invite me during my first term on the Court and he certainly made sure that his invitation was not overlooked or forgotten. I have enjoyed both our correspondence and the opportunities we have had to talk. From my vantage point, our exchanges have been enlightening, inspirational, and encouraging.

I am now approaching the end of my third...

Thoughts on the Education of Lord Acton

Of the various influences that shaped Lord Acton’s distinctive understanding of history, none was as decisive as his education. His intellectual formation was in fact unique, the product of social position, conditions within English and Continental Catholicism, revolutionary ideas in the Germanic world pertaining to the study and methods of history, and the epic debate in North America over the nature and future of the Union of the States. All of these developments converged in Acton’s life during the decade of 1848-1858, at the end of which he entered an aggressive public life in journalism and scholarship that established his name in the pantheon of the great minds of the Western tradition.

Born into a cosmopolitan family which was prominent in English, German and Italian life, a...