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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Central to the mission of the Acton Institute is educating people of faith about the connections that exist between religious life and economic thinking. Abraham Kuyper helped lay the groundwork for this mission by establishing why it’s important for Christians to be involved in the public square. Kuyper was a Dutch politician and a reformed theologian during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During his career, he wrote many books about theology, culture, business and so much more, and his work continues to influence many theologians today. Kuyper helps us understand the role that Christians are called to play in every area of life, even those like politics and education. This week, Michael Wagenman joins the podcast to lay out the main themes of Kuyper’s thought and talk about his new book, “Engaging the World with Abraham Kuyper.” Michael is a professor of theology at Western University and a professor of Biblical interpretation at Redeemer University College in Hamilton, ON.

Did you know that there are over 1,300 endangered species in the United States? Polar bears, northern spotted owls, red wolves, Florida panthers and even monarch butterflies are all on the endangered species list. We’ve been given a mandate to take care of the earth and all living creatures on it. How can we make sure that vulnerable animals are protected from extinction? This week, Jonathan Wood joins Acton Line to show how market-based approaches are the best way to tackle the issue. Jonathan is an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, where he litigates environmental, property rights and constitutional cases.

When Sir Roger Scruton passed away at the age of 75 on January 12, the world lost a giant in philosophy. Scruton wrote approximately 50 books on topics ranging from food to music to conservative thought, and in 2016 he was knighted for his contribution to philosophy and education. On this episode, Acton’s Samuel Gregg explains the most important veins of Scruton’s thought, especially those related to political philosophy and the arts.

On December 10, 2019, shoppers in a Kosher market in Jersey City, N.J., became the targets of anti-Semitic violence. A man and a woman opened fire in the grocery store, killing four people. Just a few weeks later, a man wielding a machete broke into a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York and stabbed five people who were in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah. One victim, 72-year-old Josef Neumann, was left the most seriously injured and remains in a coma. These two atrocious incidents are just a fraction of a trend of anti-Semitic attacks in the United States. In a letter written to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, four New York Jewish officials wrote that, “Simply stated, it is no longer safe to be identifiably Orthodox in the State of New York. We cannot shop, walk down the street, send our children to school, or even worship in peace.” Not even a full century after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head. What’s causing the outbreak and what can be done to counteract this hatred? Rev. Ben Johnson, senior editor at Acton, breaks it down.

On this week’s episode, we pay tribute to Gertrude Himmelfarb who passed away last Monday, December 30th, at the age of 97. Gertrude Himmelfarb was a historian and leading intellectual voice in conservatism. Throughout her career, she wrote many books about Victorian history, morality and contemporary culture. The New York Post named her one of America’s greatest minds, and the National Review called her the “paragon of intellectual accomplishment.” What did her work contribute to the conservative movement and how does her view of history inform our current times? Yuval Levin, Resident Scholar and Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at AEI, joins us on this episode to talk about her work and legacy.

During Christmastime in China in 2015, 1,700 churches were torn down or vandalized, a result of the Chinese government growing increasingly hostile to Christianity. In 2018, The Chinese government raided and shut down churches ahead of Christmas and detained pastors and members caught celebrating. From reports of labor camps in the country to growing surveillance through technology, China is increasingly cracking down on freedom. This is all laid out in a new book, titled Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy. The author, Bill Gertz, joins us on Acton Line to discuss. He’s a national security columnist for the Washington Times and senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon.

On May 22nd, 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson launched his program for a “Great Society” in a speech at the University of Michigan. “The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all,” Johnson began. “It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.” 84 bills later, Johnson’s war on poverty was in full effect, expanding to sectors in education, medicine, housing, and many more. Did the Great Society program fail or succeed? Amity Shlaes, New York Times bestselling writer and author of the new book Great Society: A New History, gives us a full picture.

Massachusetts Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed to increase taxes for big businesses and high earners to rake in nearly $3 trillion per year. Warren plans to use this tax to fund spending in health care, education, and family benefits, and as a result, according to Warren, the economy would grow. Are economists in agreement with Warren? What would increased taxes on the wealthy do for the economy? Dave Hebert, professor of economics and director of the Center for Markets, Ethics, and Entrepreneurship at Aquinas College, lays it out. On the second segment, Mark Hall, professor at George Fox University, joins the show to discuss his new book, Did America Have a Christian Founding? It’s a perennial question: how did the Judeo-Christian worldview under gird America’s founding and why is this question worth asking? Hall explains the main arguments in his book and dispels some common myths surrounding America’s founders.