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Sirico Parables book

    As I write this, we are in the run-up to Acton University 2018, our signature markets and morality event that brings together more than 1,000 people from all over the world. It is my hope that all of our faculty, staff and attendees recognize the full sweep of what we offer each year. Namely, educating and expanding the numbers of what Edmund Burke termed “little platoons.”

    For those unfamiliar with Burke’s concept, I refer you to his Reflections on the French Revolution, which also is highly recommended summer reading for high school and college students . The historical event referenced in Burke’s title is among the first uprisings against oppressive regimes that resulted in something worse than what sought to replace. Anarchy, chaos and cruelty became the order of the day. The disordered passions of humankind violently surfaced as the Reign of Terror displaced the promise of ordered liberty.

    “Turbulent, discontented men of quality, in proportion as they are puffed up with personal pride and arrogance, generally despise their own order,” wrote Burke. “One of the first symptoms they discover of a selfish and mischievous ambition is a profligate disregard of a dignity which they partake with others.”

    So was it in 1790s France as it is throughout the world today. Forces with a variety of agendas attempt to trample our hard-won liberties in pursuit of vaguely defined goals claiming egalitarian outcomes. This ignores the ample empirical evidence that humans thrive most when left in large part to their own devices in an ordered society that protects basic freedoms of speech and religion as well as property rights. The statist impulse thrives and must be fought at every turn.

    “The little platoon we belong to in society,” said Burke, “is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.”

    Burke’s description might be a little long for an official Acton University mission statement, but it applies remarkably well – as it does for all our daily efforts year-round.

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    Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president emeritus and the co-founder of the Acton Institute. Hereceived his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990.