Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Did It Liberate? Liberation Theology: Post Mortem

Editors note: In the inaugural issue of this journal there appeared an article entitled “Death Knell for Socialism and Liberation Theology” [January/February 1991]. Subsequent to the appearance of the papal encyclical Centesimus Annus, Acton President Father Robert Sirico predicted in an article in National Review : “… this encyclical constitutes the epitaph for liberation and collectivist movements.… The ‘Christian-Marxist dialogue’ is dead.”

These obituaries were, of course, not well received in quarters sympathetic to a socialist-Christian synthesis. It is, therefore, satisfying to see these assertions confirmed from the mouths of the very people who for too many years have been advancing ideas deleterious to the very liberation and self-determination they seek.



At a reunion of Johnson administration officials in Austin, Texas, a quarter century after the War on Poverty fired its cannonades, the mood of reminiscence was akin to Wordsworth’s memory of enthusiasm following the French Revolution: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.” Sargent Shriver exulted that the Reagan years had not really damaged Great Society programs, most of which were “still in existence, all helping millions of Americans today.” New York Times columnist Tom Wicker described the sumptuous affair and proposed that it was time to stop moaning, and, instead drink a toast to “vision and aspiration, confidence and compassion.”

Vision, aspiration, and confidence were all present, but was there compassion? It depends on what we mean by the word. When Speaker of the House, Tip O...


With the commencement of our second year of publishing Religion & Liberty, we are adding a regular feature by the Reverend Dr. John K. Williams. Dr. Williams is a graduate of Melbourne and Oxford Universities. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, he taught philosophy at Melbourne for three years before studying for the ministry. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church, and served as chaplain and senior teacher at St. Leonard’s College, East Brighton, Australia, for eleven years. Dr. Williams currently works as a lecturer and writer, and spent several weeks at the Acton Institute as mentor for our “Toward a Free and Virtuous Society” conference, and adjunct scholar. This column will offer our readers an opportunity to evaluate current wisdoms in the light of a traditional philosophical approach.


Alexis de Tocqueville

Estas son palabras de Alexis de Tocqueville en su clásica obra Democracia en América.

Nacido en París en 1805, Tocqueville era miembro de la pequeña nobleza. Fue enviado por su familia a los Estados Unidos, junto a su amigo Gustave de Beaumont, para evitar el alboroto resultante de la revolución de 1830. Si bien el declarado propósito de su visita era estudiar el sistema penal americano, Tocqueville hizo mucho más que eso durante su viaje de nueve meses (11 de Mayo de 1831- 20 de Febrero de 1832) que le llevaron desde Boston en el este, hasta Green...

Alexis de Tocqueville

Queste sono parole tratte dal classico di Alexis de Tocqueville La democrazia in America.

Nato a Parigi nel 1805, Tocqueville apparteneva alla piccola nobiltà. Fu mandato in America dalla sua famiglia insieme all’amico Gustave de Beaumont per sfuggire ai tumulti dei moti rivoluzionari del 1830. Mentre il suo esplicito proposito era quello di studiare il sistema penale americano, Tocqueville fece molto di più durante i nove mesi di viaggio (11 maggio 1831 – 20 febbraio 1832), che lo portarono da Boston (nell’Est) a Green Bay (nell’Ovest). Da Marie nel Nord a New Orleans nel Sud. Il resoconto del suo viaggio è diventato un classico del pensiero sociale e della filosofia politica. Nel criticare l’America del XIX secolo, Tocqueville ne ha evidenziato la forza e...

Alexis de Tocqueville

"I am inclined to believe that if faith be wanting in (a man) he must be subject; and if he believe, he must be free."

These are the words of Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic Democracy in America.

Born in Paris in 1805, Tocqueville was a member of the petite noblesse. He was sent to the United States by his family to avoid the turmoil resulting from the Revolution of 1830, with his friend Gustave de Beaumont. While the stated purpose of his visit was to study the American penal system, Tocqueville did much more during his nine-month journey (May 11,1831­ February 20, 1832) that took him from Boston in the east to Green Bay in the west, Sault Ste. Marie...

The Content of Our Character

Shelby Steele’s book, The Content of Our Character, is the best statement of its kind dealing with the issues surrounding racial antagonism often felt between black and white Americans. Written by a black professor of English who recently described himself to Time magazine as a “classical liberal,” this book is a striking analysis of the psychological factors involved in issues about race in the United States. Steele challenges many of the suppositions fashionable among the civil rights community on the basis of his own and others’ experiences in this charged area.

One of the many issues Steele raises, rarely brought up in discussions of race relations, is the prevalent feeling of black inferiority among blacks themselves. “You cannot be raised in a culture that was for centuries...

The Transfer Society

R&L: You’ve written extensively on the development of the American economic system and in particular the growth of what you call the “transfer society.” Would you briefly define what a “transfer society” is?

Hill: The idea of the transfer society is a society where property rights are up for grabs. Very few defined rules exist, or the rules are always subject to re-definition, particularly by constitutional interpretation. The book that I wrote with Terry Anderson, The Birth of a Transfer Society, is an analysis of these changes in the U. S. Constitution.

We’ve become a society in which the rules are in flux, thereby prodding people to spend a large amount of their time and resources trying to change the rules to their benefit. Our...

Preferential Option: A New Strategy for Latin America's Poor

The stench as you stand on the edge of the city dump in Guatemala City is overpowering. Even more overwhelming is the realization that crashes into your heart and mind: 3,000 families actually live here. Children and parents fight the vultures and pigs and search through the garbage for small “treasures”–bits of nylon, scraps of plastic and discarded jewelry–to resell to open air marketeers. I’ll never erase the gut-wrenching picture from my mind.

But other images are also deeply etched, like the sensory overload of the hustle and bustle of Sexto Avenida in zone one, the city’s principal commercial center. Or the look of the customs officer who coolly asked what my friends and I could give him in order to receive permission to bring into the country our 26 boxes of school...

Frédéric Bastiat

Estas palabras de Fréderic Bastiat constituyen una de las definiciones más condenatorias del Estado que jamás se hayan escrito.

Hijo de un mercader y nacido en Bayonne (Francia) en 1801, Bastiat ingresó en un orfanato antes de cumplir los diez años. Bastiat fue un agricultor que se convirtió en político. Por eso sus observaciones acerca del hombre y de la sociedad derivaron de su experiencia y de sus observaciones personales más que de las teorías de un academico.

Bastiat entró en la arena pública como resultado de su...

Frédéric Bastiat

Frédéric Bastiat nasce a Mugron, nei pressi di Bayonne, il 25 giugno del 1801. Perduti, ancora bambino, il padre e la madre, viene affidato alle cure di alcuni parenti. Studia presso il collegio di Sorrèze. Esce dal collegio all’età di vent’anni. Lavora prima a Bayonne in un'azienda commerciale di un suo zio paterno. Successivamente si ritira in una sua proprietà di camapagna, coltiva la sua intelligenza e fa coltivare i suoi campi.

Nel 1844 Bastiat è in Inghilterra, dove viene folgorato dalla scoperta delle battaglie libero-scambiste condotte da Cobden e da...

Frédéric Bastiat

"The state is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else."

These words by Frédéric Bastiat constitute one of history's most damning definitions of government.

Born the son of a merchant in 1801 at Bayonne, France, Bastiat was orphaned before his tenth birthday. Bastiat was a farmer by trade who became a politician. Hence, his observations about man and society are derived from personal experience and observation, rather than the theories of a scholar.

Bastiat entered the public arena as a result of his support for Richard Cobden and the efforts of his English Anti-Corn Law League. His...

Providence and Liberty

The Foundation for Economic Education has sold, since 1950, approximately half a million copies of its edition of Bastiat’s The Law, in the Russell translation. This makes the book a “best seller,” despite that the Bastiat name is familiar to a mere handful. Few textbook surveys of political philosophies or economic theories mention him; few academics recognize the name.

The situation was even worse fifty years ago. It was a chance encounter between Thomas Nixon Carver and Leonard Read around 1941 that began the resurrection of this brilliant but obscure French politician and journalist.

Carver had joined the Harvard faculty as Professor of Political Economy in 1902. He was a champion of the free market economy during the next several decades, an opponent of...

Talents and Stewardship

R&L: In 1986 you were co-chairman of the Lay Commission which issued a statement on religion and the economy and which was signed by a number of lay Catholics. What motivated you to do this? What were some of the reactions, both positive and negative?

Simon: The Lay Commission tried to take seriously the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which is that the laity bring a special Christian Wisdom to worldly affairs. Its critics tried to portray the Lay Commission as some sort of dissident movement. That’s nonsense. We simply wanted to express the principles that have guided our lives as Catholics and businessmen. The bishops were going off in another direction, and we felt that it was vital to bring our point of view to bear. We have been pleased to see that the...

The Entrepreneurial Vocation

One may say, without fear of contradiction, that prejudice against minorities is unpopular in modern society. And with good reason: the idea that people are judged merely by the group that they happen to belong to, without any regard for their person or individual qualities, is properly odious to anyone with moral sensibilities.

Yet despite this laudable attitude prevalent throughout the popular culture, there remains one minority group upon which an unofficial open-season has been declared: the entrepreneur. One sees evidence of this prejudice everywhere about us. Consider the books (say of Dickens or Sinclair Lewis), television programs (like Dallas or Dynasty), films (China Syndrome, Wall Street, or even some versions of “A Christmas Carol”), cartoons strips (like Doonesberry...