Posts Tagged Robert Sirico

Books I Read in 2012

The books I read in 2012 are listed below. Favorites included David Brooks’ The Social Animal, Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, Whittaker Chambers’ Witness, and, to no surprise, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

What did you read? What were some of your favorites?

Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today's Families, Michelle AnthonyPolitical Thought: A Student's Guide, Hunter BakerLiving Economics: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, Peter BoettkeGod Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise, Arthur BrooksThe Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, David BrooksWitness, Whittaker ChambersThe Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton

The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge, Calvin CoolidgeWork: The Meaning of Your Life, Lester DeKosterA Christmas Carol, Charles DickensThe Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic, Nicholas EberstadtThe Autobiography and Other Writings, Benjamin FranklinPaul, The Spirit, And The People Of God, Gordon FeeCapitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman

Free to Choose, Milton FriedmanThe Scapegoat, René GirardThe Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Jonah GoldbergThe Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty, Peter Greer

The Death of Character: On the Moral Education of America's Children, James Davison HunterWith Charity Toward None: A Fond Look At Misanthropy, Florence KingThe Great Divorce, C.S. LewisMere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance, Duane LitfinSpiritual Enterprise:, Theodore Roosevelt MallochLove & Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work, Jennifer Roback MorseCapitalism and the Jews, Jerry Mueller

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, Charles MurrayCommon Objects of Love: Moral Reflection and the Shaping of Community, Oliver O’DonovanDefending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, Robert SiricoThinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy, James K.A. Smith

Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, Thomas SowellSecure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity, Glenn StantonAfter America: Get Ready for Armageddon, Mark SteynThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Up from Slavery, Booker T. WashingtonThe Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, Kevin D. WilliamsonWordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life, Douglas WilsonBible: English Standard Version

 

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The Moral Case for a Free Economy: An Interview with Father Robert Sirico

Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, recently released a new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, in which he aims to overturn common stereotypes of capitalism and dig into the real moral implications of free enterprise. Applying his usual wit and theological depth, Fr. Sirico delivers fundamental moral arguments for why capitalism does not , as the narrative goes, promote greed, selfishness, and cruelty, but instead leverages human creativity and generosity. More importantly, Fr. Sirico contemplates how we might use our economic systems to further realize our relationship with God and man.

In this interview with Remnant Culture, Fr. Sirico discusses some of the key topics of his book, including consumerism, Ayn Rand, equality, health care, and the common “caricature” of economic man.

Of course, I encourage you to read the book in full.

One of the most popular arguments Christians make against free enterprise is that it is based on or driven by consumerism. In your book, you argue that consumerism actually makes capitalism “impossible over the long term.” How so?

Of course, we all consume. That is a fact of life. The Christian concern is not with the fact that we have to consume things (as thought we were Gnostics who did not believe in the goodness of the created world), but that we not be consumed by things.

The capitalist cycle depends on people using whatever goods they have to produce something valuable for their neighbors, and making a profit in the process. People then reinvest their profit into expanding their business, and making more profit. It’s a virtuous cycle. If an individual immediately rushes out and spends every last cent he earns today, he would have nothing left over for reinvesting and expanding for tomorrow, and thus there would be no means for sustaining his business, not to mention obtaining daily necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing.

In writing about your “undoing” as a leftist, you describe a moment when you realized that the questions you were asking about Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were similar to “the simple queries that the tall nun had posed to our First Holy Communion Class” — questions about who made the world, who God is, and why God made us. Why did studying economics inspire a return to these questions, and why are such questions important for us to consider when contemplating economics?

There is something “underneath” economics.  Economics is not really about money and charts and statistics. It is essentially about human interaction. At the center of each economic transaction stands the human person. When we talk about tax levels or private property or inflation, we are talking about realities that have profound effects on the ways people live their lives, and the ways they interact with each other. When you see that economic conditions influence the decisions people make and alter their lifestyles, you realize that people react negatively to things they view as violating their intrinsic dignity. High tax levels can be immoral not only because of the negative effects they have, but simply because it is immoral to take an inordinate amount of what someone has worked hard to earn. Pope John Paul II has made clear that unemployment is a grave wrong because it jeopardizes the lives of workers and their families.

Studying these economic realities forces you to go back to those basic questions: Who is man? How much may a government justly take from its citizens? What are the limits of government? What are its responsibilities? Much more than numbers are at stake here: intrinsic human dignity, flourishing and rights hang in the balance.

Advocates of free enterprise are often assumed to be robotic devotees of Ayn Rand, the atheist novelist and promoter of a so-called “virtue of selfishness.” Yet you argue that Rand’s beliefs stand in conflict with the very free enterprise system she claimed to support. Where are Christians to find themselves between Randian individualism and Marxist collectivism?

Rand’s theory is self-defeating because it denies the fact that the free market is based on Read the rest of this entry »

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Embracing the Mundane: Radical Discipleship vs. Spiritualized Escapism

I have often argued that radical individualism — i.e. radical obedience to God — often translates into unradical earthly action: building a family, giving to others, befriending a stranger, starting a business, working at a factory, etc. Whether or not our obedience is “radical” can only be defined by the extent to which we are willing to deny our earthly sentiments for the divine.

This, of course, says nothing about what the divine is actually demanding.

Yet many seem to miss this basic point, believing that following God to the fullest should automatically translate into things like preaching to millions or giving away all our possessions to the poor (insert cherry-picked Biblical anecdotes here). The popularity of David Platt’s recent book, for example, indicates that for many, radical obedience needs to translate into action that feels radical in some tangible, earthly way (going on a missions trip, capping one’s income at $X, building a church without air conditioning, etc.).

In a recent article for Relevant Magazine, Andrew Byers does a nice job of countering such thinking, arguing that “radical can be dangerous” and “monotony can be its own mission”:

Scripture calls us into radical service — but that does not allow others to eviscerate tedious, less “spiritually” glamorous tasks of their meaning in God’s Kingdom. Scripture also calls us to embrace the mundane and ordinary as holy and beautiful: “… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Many of us want to do something awesome, something epic. We tend to think that the more normal, the less “spiritual.” So it is quite possible that our aspirations to be radical stem from dangerous ambitions to perform biography-worthy feats of global glory.

But radical discipleship is not adventure tourism.

Then, in a move that leads to some striking socio-economic parallels (unintended, to be sure — see here and here), Byers describes the real Christian pursuit as a bottom-up struggle, one filled with risk, relationship, faith, and Read the rest of this entry »

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The Circle of Protection: A Round-Up of Christian Responses

Jim Wallis, What Would Jesus Cut, Circle of Protection, SojournersLast week I weighed in on all of the “Circle of Protection” mumbo-jumbo being tossed around at the White House, arguing that Jim Wallis and his progressive brethren are once again warping the “least of these” into political tools and confusing bureaucratic blubber with genuine compassion.

Although the budget talks are finally coming to a close — for better or for worse — there have been a flurry of other Christian responses to Wallis & Friends that are well worth reviewing. Given the evident persistency of the social (gospel) engineers and the relatively mild implications of last night’s news, such a discussion will certainly not fall off our radars any time soon.

Thus, here’s a quick look at what others have been saying about the Christian’s role in approaching an unsustainable economic future.

  • Friend of the blog Eric Teetsel has joined several other Christian leaders in writing a letter to the president in hopes of realigning the discussion away from Wallis’ perversions. The question: “Whom would Jesus indebt?” (Add your signature here.)
  • At National Review Online, Rev. Robert Sirico argues that “in the moral calculus of Jim Wallis and his Circle of Protection supporters, there’s no problem with prostrating yourself, your Church, and your aid organization before Caesar.” Also, catch Rev. Sirico’s interview with NRO on the same subject.
  • Although he doesn’t focus on Wallis directly, Douglas Wilson does a marvelous job illuminating precisely why such talks inevitably result in such bizarre and petty squabbles over this program or that. The reason? We lack honesty, integrity, and above all, a sense of reality. “Paper promises, like paper money, require honest men to execute them,” says Wilson. “And that, as it turns out, is where our real shortage is.”
  • At the Institute on Religion & Democracy, Mark Tooley concludes that Wallis did not go to the White House to represent the poor, but to represent “the secular permanent governing class.” “For its denizens,” Tooley says, “Big Government is apparently the only deity that Read the rest of this entry »

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Ayn Rand: Closer to Christianity than Marx

Ayn RandThe American Values Network recently lambasted Rep. Paul Ryan for expressing pro-Rand sentiments in several statements and online videos. In a response ad geared toward Ryan’s supporters, AVN criticized Rand’s atheism and ethics, acting as though Christian conservatives would be shocked to learn of her beliefs.

How could we, as admirers of Rand, ever be aware of her rejection of the Judeo-Christian ethos? She’s sooooo subtle.

I doubt any Christian Rand admirers were surprised at the news. Most of us draw value out of Rand in very specific ways, and we are very used to hearing the majority of our conservative brethren rejecting and lambasting her views outright (see Whittaker Chambers). What the ad really did, then, was illuminate the way the Left continues to misunderstand conservatives, particularly when it comes to what value, if any, they see in Rand.

Let us remember: For progressives, Rand is the epitome of what they are not. She boasts an emphasis on individualism that, in its most basic orientation, is opposed to their top-down, mechanical view of human engagement and society. For them, it is (supposedly) all about the “other,” and for Rand, the other only matters insofar as she is beneficial to the self (not a charming alternative, if you ask me). Faulty ethics aside, in mere political application, Rand’s message is in many ways your typical pro-capitalism shtick — rational self-interest does not negate or disregard the other; rather, it allows humans to identify ways through which they can share, exchange, and collaborate in a productive manner.

Where conservatives typically differ with Rand is on her view of the human person — the nature of the individual himself — and the subsequent moral responsibilities we as individuals have toward others. For example, what precisely is our value? Is it intrinsic? What precisely is in our self-interest? Could it actually be selflessness? It is here that we move away from the political jabber — the primary kumbaya nexus of, say, Atlas Shrugged — and toward the more fundamental disagreements over philosophy and theology (still a largely evident feature of Atlas Shrugged, if not too much so).

Yet, I suspect, even on matters of philosophy and theology, conservatives and Christians can actually find more in common with Rand than they might assume (not to mention what they might learn from their differences). As a way of illuminating this, one might consider how Rand stacks up against other atheist or “non-Christian” thinkers. For example, I continue to hear Rand compared to Karl Marx, as though Read the rest of this entry »

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#ActonU: The Week in Tweets

As already notedActon Institute, Grand Rapids, MI, I spent the bulk of last week attending Acton University, an event I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the intersection of economics and religion. Although I will likely blog at length about some of the sessions I attended (or at least the topics discussed therein), I figured I’d dump my Twitter “notes” on the blog in the meantime. (The event was discussed at #ActonU.)

My apologies in advance for any abbreviations, misspellings, unnecessary exclamation points or other frivolous and/or undesirable elements of the Twitterverse. You can follow the blog on Twitter here or follow my personal Twitter feed here.

Tuesday, June 14

Evening Program: Kick-off — Rev. Robert Sirico

  • Autonomy is important, lest we become the communist man – a mere blur in society. -Sirico
  • Christianity amplifies, clarifies, & outlines the implications of the individual and the other. -Sirico
  • The human person is the most sacred thing that presents itself to our senses other than God himself. -Sirico
  • The believers at Antioch were moved, whether they knew it or not, by their view of human dignity. -Sirico
  • The question of the human person is at the center of economics, culture and family. -Rev. Sirico
  • RT @mikejmill Acton University started tonight. Biggest year ever. 625 participants from 70 countries…plus 40 faculty.

Wednesday, June 15

Christian Anthropology — Samuel Gregg

  • “Power corrupts, but PowerPoint corrupts even more.” -Samuel Gregg
  • The Christian view of reason is much “richer” than the secularist’s. -Gregg
  • If reason is merely instrumental, there can be no real basis for freedom or basic rights. -Gregg
  • Our genes and environment may influence our actions, but they do not determine our *choices* -Gregg
  • “Freedom is much more than choosing; it’s choosing to live in the truth.” -Gregg
  • Dominion is not an excuse to be destructive and stewardship is not a call to be passive. -Gregg
  • Reading Marx is like reading an Old Testament prophet who replaces the Messianic message with mere secularist ideology. -Gregg

Frederic Bastiat: Christian and Apostle of the Market — Todd Flanders

  • Bastiat anticipated Catholic Social Teaching on socialism by half a century. -Todd Flanders
  • RT @EricTeetsel The difference between a good economist & a bad one is simple: a good economist sees the present & what must be foreseen …
  • “Destruction is not profitable.” -Bastiat #yathink?
  • Standing armies may be necessary but let’s not pretend they are not an economic advantage. -Bastiat paraphrased by Flanders
  • Destroying value for the sake of creating work is akin to shunning the most basic of divine providence. -Flanders
  • Bastiat at the point of death: “I see, I know, I believe; I am a Christian.”
  • Some guy just compared Charles I’s scaffold speech with Bastiat’s view of the law and voter enfranchisement. Awesome.

Ayn Rand and Christianity — Rev. Robert Sirico

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Kick-off to Acton U: The Sacredness of the Human Person

Rev. Robert Sirico, Acton InstituteI just arrived in Grand Rapids, MI to attend Acton University, hosted by the Acton Institute. Although I have otherwise been taking a blogging break due to the arrival of our new baby girl, I’ll be dropping some high-level takeaways from this event throughout the week.

Tonight, Rev. Robert Sirico kicked things off by providing a fundamental basis for Acton’s pursuit of a “free and virtuous society,” focusing primarily on human dignity and its centrality in such a pursuit. “The human person,” Sirico explained, “is the most sacred thing that presents itself to our senses other than God himself.” Without a correct, Biblical view of the human person, we cannot correctly identify proper solutions, whether they relate to economics, culture, or the family. (Andrew Haines recently wrote about this regarding Adam Smith.)

We must also remember, Sirico noted, that both the individual and community play a role (my tweaked paraphrasing on the latter, if you couldn’t guess). “Individuality and solidarity are all part of what makes humans human,” and to rely too heavily on the “other” is to risk the eventual manifestations of the “communist man,” something/someone Sirico deems a mere “blur in society” — or, if you ask me, a robot.

To make sense of the distinctions — as this very blog aims to do — Sirico pointed to Christianity, which he says amplifies, clarifies and outlines the implications of such a tension.

We were then shown a clip of a new documentary about the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis (not believers in such “sacredness”), after which one of the actual women involved in the resistance — Diet Eman — took the stage to explain how Christianity shaped her view of the human person, and how that foundation has empowered and guided her to take the proper Christian action, both then and now. Powerful stuff.

As far as foundations go, this certainly hits my sweet spot. Excited for what lies ahead.

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