At the age of 13, Jimmy Lai escaped China to experience freedom in Hong Kong and grew to be one of Hong Kong’s highest-profile media moguls. Through his work, Lai founded the anti-Beijing newspaper Apple Daily and became an outspoken critic of the People’s Republic of China, solidifying him as one of Hong Kong’s most important pro-democracy voices. In this exclusive interview, Acton’s President and Co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico speaks with Lai about his entrepreneurial work and his bravery in the face of persecution at the hands of China’s Communist Party.


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When Hong Kong was released from British rule and handed over to China in 1997, the United Kingdom and Beijing struck a deal that guaranteed the freedom of Hong Kong’s citizens; the territory was to remain free from mainland China’s authority for fifty years. This arrangement is often referred to as “one country, two systems.” Hong Kong established its own governmental and economic systems and flourished, growing into one of the most prosperous regions in the world and becoming a hub of international finance. Now, however, the People’s Republic of China has broken its promise. Beijing plans to impose a new national security law that would end Hong Kong’s independence, and protesters demanding democracy are being silenced. Helen Raleigh, senior contributor at The Federalist, joins this episode to shed light on the PRC’s crackdown and unrest in Hong Kong.


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In 18th century France, the most-read book after the Bible was a work on political philosophy written by the Roman Catholic archbishop François Fénelon. Unfortunately, Fénelon’s writings on economics, politics, and theology have largely been forgotten as only a fraction of his work has been translated into English. Fénelon was an important voice in France; during the enlightenment, he fought for the reform of France’s political and economic institutions. His works are a critical resource for those interested in economics, philosophy, and religion. Ryan Patrick Hanley, professor at Boston College and the author of the new book “The Political Philosophy of Fénelon,” joins the show to share why he believes Fénelon’s work is important for us today.


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The tragic and disturbing footage of George Floyd’s unjust death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has been circulating for over a week. Floyd’s death on May 25 has sparked protests across the country and even the world, but it’s also sparked many violent riots in which people have been brutally killed and communities decimated. How can we helpfully approach policing reform and how should we respond to the current widespread rioting? Anthony Bradley, professor of religion, theology and ethics at The King’s College, presents a thoughtful rubric for reforming our institutions and building our communities back up. Show notes: https://blog.acton.org/archives/116343-acton-line-podcast-anthony-bradley-on-george-floyd-police-reform-and-riots.html


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For over two years, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang campaigned across the country, building a coalition along the political spectrum. The main promise driving Yang’s campaign was his “freedom dividend,” a guaranteed income of $1,000 per month for every American citizen. This “dividend” is a form of universal basic income, an idea that’s been around for centuries and one that’s gaining popularity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who support versions of universal basic income say it would solve many problems, ranging from job loss brought on by developing technology to poverty. Has a universal basic income ever been tried before? What are the arguments for and against it? Rev. Ben Johnson, a managing editor at the Acton Institute, joins the show to answer.

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Religion plays, and has always played, a crucial role in American life. In the past 75 years, however, religiosity has been in rapid decline. What’s causing the decline? In a new study from the American Enterprise Institute, demographer Lyman Stone helps answer. Lyman joins this episode to uncover his findings, including the history of religious life in the United States dating back four hundred years ago and how secular education is likely playing a large role in declining religiosity.


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Bradley J. Birzer, professor of history and the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies at Hillsdale College, joins this episode of Acton Line to speak about his newest book, “Beyond Tenebrae: Christian Humanism in the Twilight of the West.” What is Christian humanism and what role does it play in the Republic of Letters? What does it mean to live as a Christian humanist? Birzer helps lay down some of the foundational ideas in his book and explains the role Christian humanism has played throughout history.

 

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As the United States continues to wrestle with the fallout of COVID-19, many people are falling back on their faith and the church for peace. Many churches have decided to hold services online, and local governments have also stepped in and put parameters around church attendance to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Some actions taken by local governments have been appropriate, but some others leave us wondering if the government has overstepped. How can we tell the difference between measured responses and overreaches, and what should the role of the church be during these times? What has the church’s response to pandemics looked like in the past? Acton’s President and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico explains.

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The United States has been in a state of emergency since mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to slow the spread of the virus, states have implemented various measures, including shelter-in-place orders, forcing millions of Americans to stay at home. Millions of individuals have now been furloughed or laid off permanently, and many are struggling to put food on the table. The economy cannot remain closed indefinitely. How do we begin facing the tough questions evoked by this situation and where do we go from here? Stephen Barrows, managing director of programs at Acton, explains.

 

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Homeschooling is growing in popularity. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education has shown that it’s grown at a rate of over 60% in the last decade, as many families are deciding that educating their children at home is better sending them to public or private schools. But Harvard University has a different opinion. In Harvard Magazine’s May/June 2020 issues, one Harvard Law School professor calls for a ban on homeschooling, saying it may keep children from “contributing positively to a democratic society.” Kerry McDonald, senior education fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, joins the podcast to respond.
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On March 31, The Atlantic published an article titled “Beyond Originalism,” written by Adrian Vermeule, professor of Constitutional law at Harvard Law School. In this piece, Vermeule argues that “the dominant conservative philosophy for interpreting the constitution has served its purpose and scholars ought to develop a more moral framework.” Originalist interpretations of the Constitution simply no longer serve the common good, Vermeule says. What does he mean by this, and is he correct? In this episode, we’re featuring two different conversations on the topic, both hosted by Acton’s Director of Communications, Eric Kohn. First, Randy Barnett, professor at Georgetown University, clears up the legal theory behind Vermeule’s essay. Afterwards, David French, senior editor at The Dispatch, helps break down the context surrounding calls for conservative activism on the courts.
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Russell Kirk has long been known as perhaps the most important founding father of the American Conservative movement in the second half of the 20th century. In the early 1950s, America was emerging from the Great Depression and the New Deal, and was facing the rise of radical ideologies abroad; the American Right seemed beaten, broken, and adrift. Then in 1953, Russell Kirk released his masterpiece, “The Conservative Mind.” More than any other published work of the time, this book became the intellectual touchstone for a reinvigorated movement and began a sea change in Americans’ attitudes toward traditionalism. In this episode pulled from the archive, Bradley J. Birzer, professor of history at Hillsdale College, recounts the story of Kirk’s life and work, with attention paid not only to his writings on politics and economics, but also on literature and culture, both subjects dear to Kirk’s heart and central to his thinking.

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Today, our most contentious controversies are about morality. We disagree about questions of efficiency and democracy, but across political aisles, we also disagree about what’s right to do and who we’re becoming as a people. How can we have productive debates with people whose worldviews are very different from ours? Adam MacLeod, professor of law at Faulkner University, addresses this question in his new book titled “The Age of Selfies: Reasoning About Rights When the Stakes Are Personal.” In this conversation, Adam examines the roots of our disagreements and proposes a way to provide a more secure foundation for civil rights.

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Acton’s President and Co-Founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, offers some thoughts on what the role of the government should be during a crisis. When we’re confronted with unique crises, especially like the Coronavirus pandemic the world is facing now, there are justified government interventions. We can’t discount, however, the principle of subsidiarity as well as the division of labor and voluntary action. How can we wisely approach these principles in the reality of our current context? Rev. Sirico explains.

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As of March 18, 2020 Coronavirus, or COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, has infected over 200,000 people worldwide, and has killed more than 8,000 people globally. What responsive measures should have been taken by China that weren’t? How did the People’s Republic of China put the world in danger by failing the people of Wuhan, and who in China risked their lives and even the lives of their family members to raise the alarm for your sake? Helen Raleigh, a senior contributor at The Federalist, answers.

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It’s now been three years since Michael Novak passed away. Novak was Roman Catholic theologian, philosopher and author, and was a powerful defender of human liberty. In this episode, Acton’s Samuel Gregg shares Novak’s history, starting with his time on the left in the 1960s and 70s and recounting his gradual shift toward conservative thought that culminated in the publication of his 1982 masterwork, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.” In this book, Novak grounded a defense for a free market in Judeo-Christianity, influencing how many Protestants and Catholics thought about economics. As Gregg recently wrote, “No religious intellectual can match Novak’s influence in facilitating this transformation through the written word in America and throughout the world.”

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In recent years, a rift has opened within American conservatism, a series of divisions animated in part by the 2016 presidential election and also by a right concern with an increasingly progressive culture. Among these divisions is a growing split between self-professing liberal and illiberal conservatives as some on the right scramble to give explanation for a culture which has become hostile to civil society and traditional institutions, most notably the family. One movement which has grown out of this divide is national conservatism, embodied by the launch of the first National Conservatism Conference last year and in the words of its proponents including Patrick Deneen, Yoram Hazony and Michael Anton. What defines national conservatism and what, ultimately, do national conservatives want? Stephanie Slade, managing editor at Reason Magazine, breaks it down.

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If you’ve traveled to Washington, D.C., before, it’s likely that you’ve flown through Washington Dulles International Airport, named after President Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. In fact, over 60,000 people travel through Dulles airport every day, but not many people know much about its namesake. John Foster Dulles served in the early years of the Cold War and pursued a vigorous foreign policy meant to isolate and undermine international and expansionist Communism. Undergirding his foreign policy was a commitment to natural law, a realistic understanding of human nature and a clear vision of freedom. Since his death in 1959, Dulles has been characterized only as a dour, puritanical and simple man. Joining the podcast today to shed more light on the life of Dulles is John D. Wilsey, associate professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In this conversation, John brings perspective to Dulles’ legacy, uncovering both his public and private life, and showing how simple explanations of Dulles just don’t help us accurately understand the man or his times.

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It’s not news that America’s trust in public institutions is falling. Gallup polls reveal that confidence in the church is at an all time low, and similarly, Pew Research has found that Americans’ trust in the federal government and in each other is “shrinking.” In his new book, titled “A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream,” Yuval Levin argues that the widespread lack of trust we’re facing stems largely from weakened institutions – and the path forward rests in strengthening institutions rather than tearing them down. In this episode, he joins the podcast to help explain why our institutions have weakened and what we can do to address it. Yuval is an American political analyst and journalist. He is the founding editor of National Affairs and the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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On February 5, Pope Francis addressed a crowd of economists and Finance Ministers that had gathered together for a seminar on “New Forms of Solidarity Towards fraternal Inclusion, Integration and Innovation.” During his speech, the pope addressed the economy, sin and finance, and he also called for wealth distribution in order to alleviate poverty. “The world is rich and yet the poor increase around us,” he said. “If extreme poverty exists in the midst of wealth (also extreme) it is because we have allowed the gap to widen to become the largest in history.”The pope says it’s a “fact” the poor have only grown poorer while the rich continue to get richer – is this really true? Can poverty really be alleviated through wealth redistribution? Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, comes on to the podcast to answer.

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