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The Great Works at the Acton Institute Open House

Thursday, November 4, 4pm - 8pm

The Acton Institute recently expanded its reach by partnering with The Detroit News. Acton’s unique commentary will now be featured in a bimonthly publication slot. To begin this partnership, Stephen Barrows, Acton Institute’s managing director of programs, wrote a timely piece on his experience in Afghanistan while serving in the United States Air Force.

“I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. Eleven years later, I watched the Taliban devastate all the progress we fought for,” writes Barrows in his article. The “Afghanistan I fought for lacks [a] foundation for freedom.”

Barrows explains how heartbreaking and upsetting it is to witness Afghanistan’s chaos and the Taliban’s return to power. “Like other veterans who deployed to Afghanistan, my astonishment at what is transpiring is limited only to the speed of the collapse.”

Barrows notes that historians and political scientists will surely debate the countless missteps during America’s 20-year presence in Afghanistan. But “at least one thing is clear: When the preconditions necessary to secure a free and flourishing society are absent, it is extraordinarily difficult for another nation to impose them, and it is the ordinary citizens of that society who suffer as a consequence.”

The people of Afghanistan have had to endure decades of violence, where torture, death, and destruction were routine. This type of environment “inevitably undermines the value of a person’s humanity,” writes Barrows. “For a civilization to thrive, a civilization must recognize the inherent dignity of the human person.”This, Barrows explains, is a fundamental precondition not only for a flourishing society but also for the rule of law, market commerce, creative entrepreneurial activity, property rights, and, because humans are social in nature, the need for institutions.

To conclude, Barrows emphasizes how important the right conditions are for a sustainable government and a flourishing society. “Acknowledging the dignity of the human person, the importance of subsidiary social institutions, a commitment to the rule of law and an embrace of the commercial society are necessary, but they were absent in Afghanistan, largely because of Afghanistan’s violent modern history.”

To read this article in its entirety, please visit acton.is/barrows.

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