Religion & Liberty Article Listing

A Moral Solution to Moral Problems

During Mass one Sunday after the reading of the Gospel, I settled into the pew for the homily. I expected the usual treatment of the day’s readings and a passing reference to how we can apply the words of Scripture to our everyday lives. However, on this day, the homily would have a relevant meaning for individuals and churches throughout America.

In his homily, the priest told of his first assignment after being ordained. He was to serve an inner-city church with mostly poor members. This was not exactly what the priest desired from his new vocation. In fact, he admitted he was a bit disgruntled. After all his years of education at the university and seminary, he found himself cleaning tables after providing free meals for the surrounding neighborhood. After one particular hard day, he stormed into...

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk, padre del movimiento conservador estadounidense, murió el 29 de abril a la edad de 75 años en su casa de Mecosta, Michigan. Mejor conocido por su libroThe Conservative Mind, publicado en 1953; los escritos del Dr. Kirk han influenciado dos generaciones de conservadores tanto en los Estados Unidos como en el extranjero.

Fue un prolífico escritor y columnista, publicando más de 30 libros de ficción y no ficción, así como cientos de ensayos y reseñas. Durante 30 años editó la revista trimestral sobre libros titulada The University Bookman, y...

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk, noto per il suo libro The Conservative Mind, pubblicato nel 1953 è stato il padre del movimento conservativo americano, morì il 29 Aprile all’età di 75 anni nella sua casa nel Mecosta, in Michigan. Gli scritti del dott. Kirk hanno influenzato due generazioni di conservatori sia negli Stati Uniti che all’estero.

Fu uno scrittore e un cronista molto prolifico, pubblicando più di 30 libri di narrativa e non, così come centinaia di saggi e recensioni. Per 30 anni diresse la rivista trimestrale sui libri dal titolo The University Bookman, e fu anche il fondatore di una rivista critica sulla politica e la cultura...

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk, father of the American conservative movement, died April 29th at the age of 75 in his home in Mecosta, Michigan. Best known for his book The Conservative Mind, published in 1953, Dr. Kirk's writings have influenced two generations of conservatives in the United States and abroad.

He was a prolific writer and columnist, publishing over 30 books of fiction and non-fiction, as well as hundreds of essays and reviews. For 30 years, he edited The University Bookman, a quarterly review of books, and was the founder of Modern Age, a critical review of politics and...

The Social Crisis of Our Time

Those who, like the Swiss economist Wilhelm Röepke, dislike both a laissez faire economy and a planned or state-manipulated one usually hope for a “Third Way” skirting both. Originally published in 1942, this thoughtful, richly textured work is Röepke’s first formulation of the “Third Way.”

Röepke saw causes ranging from Christianity’s decline, the rise of ideology and the “cult of the colossal” to the surge in population combining to produce “the social crisis of our time”: the rise of “mass society” and large-scale economies, in which families disintegrate and individuals become powerless.

A fierce opponent of collectivism, Röepke knew state intervention in the economy was usually harmful, and socialism necessarily meant tyranny.


With Liberty and Justice for Whom?

Gay identifies three distinct positions on capitalism among evangelicals: those held by the evangelical left, right, and center. Each of their positions are treated with utmost fairness, a feat which by itself makes the book, and Gay himself, worthy of high praise.

Many of the criticisms raised against capitalism by the evangelical left are familiar, and not unlike those raised by the secular left. In addition, evangelicals on the left raise a number of biblically based criticisms of capitalism, including the allegation that capitalism is inconsistent with much of the Mosaic legislation and with the teaching of Jesus (e.g. the story of the rich young ruler).

Anyone familiar with the economic pronouncements of mainline Protestant denominations and the World Council of Churches...

The Church and the Revolution

What Weigel calls the “Standard Account” gives primary credit for the Revolution of 1989 to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Advocates of this interpretation argue that two tenets of Gorbachev’s policy proved to be the conditions sine qua non for the eventual success of the Revolution: the Soviet army would no longer intervene when its allies chose to go their own way and the Soviet party would no longer demand exclusive communist control of central and eastern Europe.

While conceding the importance of Gorbachev’s reining in his armed forces as the Soviet satellite regimes tottered, Weigel nevertheless argues that it is “simply realistic to suggest that by the time the Revolution of 1989 gained critical mass in the fall and winter of that year, Gorbachev really had no choice but...

The Free Market and Public Morality

R&L: What was it that caused you to have second thoughts about the role of the state in economic life and about the left-wing agenda of the 60’s of which you were so much a part?

Novak: In many places the liberal agenda did not work as we had hoped. I was living in New York at the time, and the city almost went bankrupt. Crime and illegitimacy were mounting. Those of us who were in favor of the “War on Poverty” never said “Just wait, in thirty years we’ll move the illegitimacy rate from 6 percent to 30 percent. Crime will go up 700 percent. Poverty programs will work for the elderly, but among the young the sense of dignity and rule of law will be far lower than it is today.” We did not intend any of these things. The programs did not work in the way that we...

The Moral Nature of Free Enterprise

In the marketplace, the consumer is “king.” To become wealthy in free enterprise usually involves mass production for mass material consumption. The free market rewards entrepreneurs for their correct anticipation of consumer demand. It showers people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie with tremendous wealth, because they dramatically improved the consumer’s quality of life.

Contrast this with socialist or pre-capitalist society. Those societies excel in producing an abundance of grinding poverty, famine, disease and oppression. Their parasitic government officials live in opulence while creating only misery and chaos. Free enterprise radically changes this picture by creating a broad based, middle class and consumer society.


Mia Immaculee Antoinette Acton Woodruff

The phone rang at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 5th. “Her heart gave up” was how a mutual friend announced Mia’s death. Marie Immaculée Antoinette Acton, later the Hon. Mrs. Douglas Woodruff, was dead at 89. I had seen her scarcely two weeks prior and knew that the end was near: “One can live too long, Jim,” she had said. Though she had often joked about the nuisance of what she described as her “creeping decrepitude,” there was a different tone of voice this time. The end came in her beloved home, Marcham Priory, near Abingdon, on the grounds of which stands an ancient stone building (used as chapel and library by the Wood- ruffs), a remnant from the 10th century Benedictine abbey, suppressed in 1538.

What justice can be done to a life in a few score words? Mia Woodruff’s life breathed the long...

Benjamin Constant

Born near Lausanne, Switzerland, to descendants of Huguenots, Constant was educated at the universities at Erlangen and Edinburgh, the latter having such luminaries as Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson on their faculty-a center of Whig politics.

In contrast to the physiocrats who supported an enlightened despot to promote liberal principles, Constant rejected such solutions, declaring that government was the greatest threat to liberty. The worst thing would be to give the state more power, regardless of what the agenda might be.

He gave many reasons to limit state intervention in the lives of people: 1) errors...

John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation

In John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation, many different viewpoints converge and, with only a few exceptions, further Fr. Murray’s understanding of the essential need for civilized, rational discussion. All but perhaps three of the thirteen essays proceed in the spirit of Murray. The book is divided into three main sections. In the first section, essays by Richard John Neuhaus and William R. Luckey stand out. Neuhaus’ essay, from a purely stylistic point of view, is a joy to read. Writing prior to his “transition” to Catholicism, Neuhaus provides an intriguing comparison of Murray’s concept of Christian dualism (i.e., the recognition of a tension between the immanent and the transcendent, the secular and the sacred, creation and redemption, etc.) with Martin Luther’s...

Adam Smith in His Time and Ours

Let me resolve this paradox by stating that Jerry Muller is a Professor of History at the Catholic University of America. He has written a book which economists and libertarians ought to read. It is also written in such a style that the general reader can derive great benefit from it.

The book deftly summarizes a mass of scholarship from many different areas–political philosophy, ethics, psychology, history, and literature–without trivializing it into bland encyclopedic entries.

The author sheds light on the various traditions to which Smith was reacting: Greek and Roman philosophy, Christian thought, the Classical Republican tradition, the history of economic thought from Scholasticism, Mercantilism, and natural right theories of Hobbes and Locke.


Freedom From Welfare Dependency

R&L: What are the differences between the genders as articulated in your book Men and Marriage and what impact does this have on the social order?

Gilder: The key difference is that the woman holds in her very body a link to the long term future of the race. Her sexuality determines her long term goals. As a very physiological consciousness, she knows she can bear and nurture children. She has a central role in the very perpetuation of the species. The man is estranged from this process; his sexuality arises merely as a compulsive drive to pleasure. It’s short term by nature. It’s predatory and quickly gratified. The Women’s Movement tragically reduces female sexuality to the terms of male sexuality. When this happens, she reduces herself to the male...

The Economics of Sin Taxes

“Sin Taxes” are so called because they are levied on those commodities, such as tobacco and alcohol, which are the objects of widespread disapproval. “Such taxes,” Paul Samuelson says, “are often tolerated because most people–including many cigarette smokers and moderate drinkers–feel that there is something vaguely immoral about tobacco and alcohol. They think these ”sin taxes“ stun two birds with one stone: the state gets revenue, and vice is made more expensive.”

“Sin Taxes” is not a technical term in economics. They are simply a form of excise tax. What, then, is an excise tax? It is a tax levied on some but not on all commodities. This is how it differs from the general sales tax, which is levied on all products (with certain minor exceptions). This...