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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton—First Baron Acton of Aldenham—was born in Naples, Italy on January 10, 1834. His father, Sir Richard Acton, was descended from an established English line, and his mother, Countess Marie Louise de Dalberg, came from a Rhenish family which was considered to be second in status only to the imperial family of Germany. Three years after his father's death in 1837, his mother remarried Lord George Leveson (later known as Earl Granville, William Gladstone's Foreign Secretary), and moved the family to Britain. With his cosmopolitan background and upbringing, Acton was equally at home in England or on the Continent, and grew up...

Galileo's Revenge

This dynamic is and always has been present in jury trials, and every trial lawyer knows it. Jury trials are ultimately a contest between truth and rhetoric, in which rhetoric often has the advantage. The validity of any jury trial system depends, then, on its ability to develop and implement evidentiary rules that neutralize this advantage, i.e., that gives truth an even chance against flimflam.

In his book Galileo’s Revenge, Peter W. Huber presents us with compelling evidence that the American judicial system is regularly failing this test, at least in one important category of modern cases. The cases about which Huber writes are those in which “expert” witnesses use “scientific theories” to establish the defendant’s liability. Historically, the use of such testimony was allowed only...

Birth of the Modern

Johnson presents a daunting tome of some one thousand pages filled with an interdisciplinary approach that views history as a whole, involving the interface between painters (Turner), musicians (Beethoven), scientists (Lyell), and ordinary people. This emphasis upon social history, avoiding the tendency of past historians to overemphasize political events, is common among contemporary historians. But, unlike many, Johnson does not bore the reader with mundane facts about plumbing contracts in nineteenth-century France, nor does he have a hidden socialist agenda to cut down to size the historical importance of great political and business leaders. As one has come to expect from Johnson, his prose is lively and his anecdotes are often amusing, yet always substantial. A case in point is his colorful portrayal of the richness of the...

Lessons from Liechtenstein

R&L: In the United States, monarchs are usually seen as either mere figureheads or as malevolent dictators. What is the role of a monarch in a free society?

Liechtenstein: In our time, monarchies are an important factor in the stability of a country. The monarchy stands for continuity and moral responsibility for the next generation. The monarchs don’t hold their positions for a few years, and then, after an election, find themselves out of office. Rather, they automatically have to think about the next generation, because the next monarch will most likely be their child or other family member. This naturally instills in one a more long-term perspective, one of the greatest advantages of the monarchy.

Monarchies also help to strengthen...

Concerning the Education of Clergymen

In the course of my travels the length and breadth of this land, often I am struck with the innocence of both Protestant and Catholic clergy in matters political and economic. For innocence, read–if you will–ignorance. The seminaries teach next to nothing in these disciplines, and candidates for Holy Orders–with some honorable exceptions–seem to have acquired but scanty information about the civil social order before they begin to proceed to a school of theology.

I certainly do not desire to return our men of the cloth to the illusion of the Social Gospel–now a dying influence. Yet though minister and priest ought not to set up as arbiters of things secular, still they must be concerned with the relationship between religious doctrine and the art of worldly wisdom. For this,...

Angels or Apes: The Spirituality of Commerce

All human activities can be located somewhere along a spectrum that is anchored at one end by spirituality, and at the other by physicality. Praying is near the spiritual end; reading and writing, composing music and making tools are its neighbors. As the source of both great sensual pleasure and also of all new life, sex might be somewhere near mid-spectrum, while eating and all other bodily functions belong over toward the physical end. Where do commercial transactions fit? When a man exchanges coins in his pocket for goods he desires, is he performing a physical act or a spiritual one?

One way of identifying a spiritual act is by determining whether a chimpanzee would understand the action. When I return home from work and slump into a comfortable armchair, my pet primate undoubtedly sympathizes. As I...

Orestes Brownson

Orestes Brownson (1803-76) is not, at first sight, a philosopher of liberty but, rather, one who is concerned with ordered liberty itself ordained towards a higher good. He was, to put it paradoxically, more attentive to the many ways in which freedom goes wrong than in the ways in which it goes right. Or, to put it another way, liberty never just “goes right” by itself. It is the truth that makes us free, not the freedom that makes the truth. Liberty was the result of many things, including virtue, a proper family, a republican constitution, and, above all, the accurate understanding of God.

Brownson was an enigmatic...

Beyond Liberation Theology

Humberto Belli is a Nicaraguan, the former editorial page editor of La Prensa, who, after a number of years in exile, returned to his homeland to help rebuild what the Sandinistas laid to waste. He currently serves as the Minister of Education, and is an enthusiastic Roman Catholic. He taught sociology at the University of Steubenville, and is the founder of the Puebla Institute, a center for communication about the situation of the church in Latin America.

Dr. Ronald Nash is a professor of philosophy at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and a member of the Acton Institute Advisory Board. His works on theology, economics, and philosophy are simply too numerous to mention.

The publication of this book by Baker Book House completes its innovation...

Understanding the Times

David Noebel ambitiously defends the biblical Christian worldview as “the one worldview based on truth” as he examines its chief rivals: Marxism/Leninism and secular humanism. In doing so, he underscores several significant points: First, beliefs matter. They are not simply “preferences.” A battle of ideas is a welcome advance beyond the anti-intellectualism of early fundamentalism, warm-hearted pietism, and lazy relativism. Second, beliefs have contexts and consequences. Noebel presents beliefs in the contexts of comprehensive worldviews, analyzing their implications for a variety of disciplines. Lastly, his extensively documented research usually avoids caricature, as he often relies on key sources. He generally presents what opposing worldviews believe before criticizing them. In short, he avoids a privatized, anti-intellectual...

Markets and Virtue

R&L: Please explore with us the way in which certain human virtues were compromised by the years of Communist rule in your country.

Klaus: Basic human virtues such as thrift, honesty, and fidelity can grow and flourish only in an environment of individual freedom and self-responsibility. Communist totalitarianism deprived people of both of them, made them more passive, more cowardly, and more resigned than in countries with political pluralism, property rights, and market structures.

R&L: In the long term, do you believe that the market system will encourage a resurgence of these virtues?

Klaus: People always pursue their self-interest, no matter what system they live in. Only ways...

The Wedding of Three Philosophical Traditions Toward a Refined Philosophy of Economics

The recent encyclical, Centesimus Annus, serves as a blueprint for a possible renaissance in economic thought. The encyclical blends philosophical traditions providing a new methodological approach for philosophy of economics. Using Centesimus Annus as a model, I set out to investigate new philosophical approaches to political economy. I investigated the inherent connections between ethics and economics through a presentation and augmentation of the value theory and ethics of the Austrian Economist, Ludwig von Mises.

Mises’ Human Action is compared with the value-based ethics of Dietrich von Hildebrand and the anthropology of Karol Wojtyla as found in Ethics and The Acting Person, respectively. The result of this dialogue is the enhancement of Austrian economics...

Power Corrupts

When a person gains power over other persons–political power to force other persons to do his bidding when they do not believe it right to do so–it seems inevitable that a moral weakness develops in the person who exercises that power. It may take time for this weakness to become visible. In fact, its full extent is frequently left to the historians to record, but we eventually learn of it. It was Lord Acton, the British historian, who said: “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Please do not misunderstand me. These persons who are corrupted by the process of ruling over their fellow men are not innately evil. They begin as honest men. Their motives for wanting to direct the actions of others may be purely patriotic and altruistic. Indeed, they may wish only “to do good for the people...

Christianity and Liberty

An atheist is rarely asked to write an essay on “religion’s positive role in society,” but it is fitting that this request came from the Acton Institute. Lord Acton (1834-1902) was a Catholic, a classical liberal, and a great historian who devoted his life to the history of liberty.

Acton always stressed this important truth: No one group or movement, religious or secular, deserves exclusive credit for the theory and evolution of free institutions. All historians should avoid the unpardonable sin of “making history into the proof of their theories.” Instead, the historian should try “to do the best he can for the other side, and to avoid pertinacity or emphasis on his own.”

Acton is one of my intellectual heroes, and I hope this essay does justice to his memory. Using...

Frank S. Meyer

With this simple statement from his 1962 book, In Defense of Freedom: A Conservative Credo, Frank S. Meyer defined the goal of postwar conservatism: to create a society in which men are free to pursue virtue but not enforce virtue at the point of a gun.

After World War II, when collectivism seemed triumphant, individuals who opposed the welfare state for different reasons banded together in order to fight it. Yet the tension between the traditionalists and libertarians threatened to tear the conservative movement apart. Meyer showed the groups what they had in common by pointing out where they were each mistaken.

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Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership

The book, Love and Profit: the Art of Caring Leadership by James A. Autry, arrived within a few days. Inside the fly cover was a comment by John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, authors of Megatrends 2000. “The most caring (loving) book about management we have ever read. A real breakthrough. We predict it will become a classic.”

“Wow! That’s pretty heavy stuff,” I thought. Can any book on management live up to that statement? I had my doubts … After all, I had just retired as CEO of one of Fortune’s top 100 companies in America. I had spent 41 years with the same company–38 of those years in management positions. So I was really anxious to see what great insights Mr. Autry was going to share with the world.

I read the introduction … “Good...