Since 1991, the Acton Lecture Series has served as a catalyst for productive discourse on social and economic topics relevant to West Michigan and global audiences.
In the past few months, Acton has invited many speakers who address topics ranging from a discussion of cultural conservatism in our current political climate to the causes of the failures of governmental checks and balances in the United States.
In his lecture “The End of Cultural Conservatism as We Know It,” Avik Roy, founder and president of The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, discussed the fracturing of conservative thinking in the United States. He observed that the traditional “three-legged” stool model of conservatism—free markets, anti-communism and cultural conservatism— is no longer an accurate synthesis:
Without the Soviets as a foil, conservatism became a two-legged stool. ... [and] before long conservatism might be down to a onelegged stool because, we no longer agree on ... what we seek to conserve.
Roy also noted that conservatives have failed to adapt to changing demographics in the United States. In its emphasis on Western Judeo- Christian values, conservatism failed to listen to those voices that were found outside of its European concentration. Roy called for an increased emphasis on inclusion with those who are not traditionally part of Western Civilization, those who share similar values of human dignity, virtue and liberty. Conservatives need to adapt to cultural shifts to combat the feelings of alienation and separation from many in the movement.
In “The Growth of Leviathan,” Joseph Scoville, a retired U.S. Magistrate Judge for the western district of Michigan, addressed the application of the United States Constitution: there is a great disconnect between the Constitution that we teach children in school and the Constitution that we actually live under. Scoville highlighted how the growth of the federal government has developed well beyond its original intent, giving it levels of power never defined in the Constitution. The impetus for this federal overreach began with the progressives during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Concerning this shift in power, Scoville asked:
How did this happen? Whom do we have to blame for this? The progressives ... They contrived some makeshift objections to the original Constitution and said that senators should be elected. That’s because they didn’t believe in the original design of the Constitution.
Despite this shift in power, Scoville stated that he is still hopeful. He suggested that the Supreme Court justices will stand up for what the Constitution actually says.
These topics are worthy of examination, considering the modern political climate in which polarization and the federal government’s great authority over its citizens are ever increasing. The Acton Lecture Series will continue to address relevant social and economic topics in the near future and put emphasis on free-market principles and individual liberty. Visit Acton.org for our upcoming events and archived videos.