My good friend Bill Lifka, and his wife Alice, invited me and a couple dozen other residents of The Villages, FL, to a nice dinner and a great talk by the Rev. Robert Sirico, pictured above. He is the President of the Acton Institute for the study of religion and liberty, which is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
See Wikipedia for more about Rev. Sirico. Here is a pithy selection that I found interesting:
In 1990, in response to what he saw as an insufficient understanding of economics by religious leaders and the religious isolation of business leaders, Sirico founded the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids. With the motto "connecting good intentions with sound economics," the institute provides a vision of free market economics within a Judeo-Christian moral framework. In Sirico's words:
- The essential thing was my frustration when I was in seminary ... to hear homilies preached that inevitably insulted business people. I knew this was a serious error both theologically and pastorally. Theologically, because of the moral bankruptcy of socialism as an ideology. But pastorally because it alienated good people who were working and attempting to participate in the Christian mission
I did not take notes during the talk, but here are a few highlights as I remember them. (I take responsibility for any errors or distortion of Father Sirico's message.)
He began by imagining that all the wealth in the World could be divided equally among all the people in the World, which he estimated would be about $13,000 per man, woman, and child.
OK, but what would happen on the next day? The wealth of the World is not simply money and goods that could be so divided, but is mostly represented by the monetary value of investments in business enterprises, which would cease operation if so distributed. The day after such a distribution, the engines of production of goods and services would grind to a halt, most jobs would vanish, and the standard of living would permanently decline.
That, in essence, is the problem with much of the socialist-oriented big government rhetoric many voters find appealing. Europe is a decade or two ahead of the US along this road to ruin.
Midway through his talk, Sirico asked if anyone knew the famous quote, regarding power, from the namesake of the Acton Institute, Lord Acton. I spoke up, saying I had not looked it up, but I thought it was "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." I was close, but was corrected for having left out two important words. The actual quote is "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." He noted that he had similarly corrected Lady Thatcher's recollection of that famous quote, and I was proud to be in such grand company.
A question and answer session followed the talk and some of the topics included the possibly socialistic tendencies of Pope Francis, the danger of the ascendancy of Donald Trump in the Republican Presidential Primary contest, the power of new technology, including cable-TV and the internet, in breaking the earlier monopoly of the three major TV networks over news, and a number of other controversial areas. I found myself in general agreement with Father Sirico. (Like me, he was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.)
THANKS to Bill and Alice Lifka for an enjoyable evening in their beautiful, warm, and comfortable home. Bill Lifka is the author of a number of postings on this blog (see here),
Here are my favorite quotes from Lord Acton, selected from the extensive Archive on the Acton Institute website: