Samuel Gregg

Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, The Modern Papacy, Wilhelm Röpke's Political Economy, and most recently Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future.

What is Social Justice?

Lamartine in front of the Town Hall of Paris rejects the red flag on 25 February 1848.

Introduction Few terms have assumed more prominence in public discourse, especially that emanating from the left, in recent decades than “social justice.” It has now become part of the rhetorical apparatus of virtually all center-left, social democratic and labor political movements as well as central to the language of modern liberalism. In Western Europe, the term has also been embraced by more-than-a-few center-right, Christian Democrat, and conservative groupings, David Cameron’s Tory Party being a prominent example. Religious groups—most notably, but not exclusively, the Catholic Church—also utilize the expression extensively in their commentary on social and economic subjects. In the case of…

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Responses

Social Justice is the State

Samuel Gregg’s essay, “What is Social Justice?” is an important reminder that many different moral traditions – including the Catholic natural law tradition – may lay claim to the vocabulary of “social justice” and to an associated notion of the “common good.”  As articulated by Gregg, this natural law tradition can employ the language of…

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Social Justice Theory: A Solution in Search of a Problem

What is social justice? Sam Gregg’s essay answers this question by reviewing the origins and evolution of the concept. I find little to quibble with in Sam’s remarks and I am certainly in no position to make them a fortiori. My contribution will therefore be to offer an explanation for why social justice theory is both…

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Becoming Europe

Becoming Europe

This Liberty Law Talk is a discussion with Samuel Gregg about his most recent book, Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. Recent events in Cyprus, to say nothing of the economic stasis that envelopes much of Europe, highlight America's need to think deeply about the current trajectory of our fiscal and entitlements policies, among other weighty matters. Gregg's book, however, is not merely a rehashing of dire spending problems and bankrupting entitlements and the predictably poorer future this promises, but is a discussion of the social and cultural commitments that are required to…

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Why Religious Liberty (and Thomas Becket) Really Matters

Thomas Becket

When consolidating their control over society, authoritarian regimes know that extinguishing political, civil and economic freedom is never quite enough. All authoritarians recognize that taking religious freedom seriously limits their capacity to interfere with the ability of people (including non-believers) to pursue and draw conclusions about religious truth; the decisions of people to make choices consistent with their religious beliefs; and the external activities and internal life of religious organizations. In short, robust conceptions of religious freedom make a truly authoritarian state that much harder to realize. The significance of religious liberty—and, more particularly, libertas ecclesiae—for freedom more generally has been…

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The Profoundly anti-Keynesian Political Economy of Wilhelm Röpke

Wilhelm Ropke

This edition of Liberty Law Talk is a conversation with Samuel Gregg, Research Director of the Acton Institution, on his latest book, Wilhelm Röpke's Political Economy. Röpke's name is not frequently mentioned in the parade of great free market economists of the twentieth century. This is unfortunate, for those who know Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises may not be aware of this German economist who was as fluent in history, philosophy, and classical languages as he was in economics. One of the leading postwar German thinkers whose ideas guided Germany's free market economic revival, Röpke approached business cycle theory, international…

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John Tomasi Rearranges the Deck Chairs on the Good Ship Liberalism

The number of contradictory positions associated with the words “liberal” and “liberalism” have led some to conclude that such expressions are now so unstable in their meaning that they lack sufficient descriptive power of any lasting significance. Of course, the same could be said of terms used to describe most modern political positions, including “conservatism” and “socialism.” Liberalism, however, seems particularly amorphous inasmuch as the phrase is associated with figures as apparently different in their starting points and conclusions such as Friedrich Hayek and John Rawls, but also David Hume and Immanuel Kant.

Or is it? In his new book Free Market Fairness, the political philosopher John Tomasi challenges and seeks to overcome some of the internal divisions among those who ascribe to the liberal nomenclature. Rather than attempting a synthesis of competing schools of liberal thought, Tomasi outlines what he is very careful to specify as a “hybrid” (87) political theory that draws upon classical liberalism and libertarianism on the one hand, and what he calls high or left liberalism on the other. Tomasi does not seek to somehow ground classical liberal institutions on the basis of left liberal moral imperatives, or vice-versa. Instead he argues for what he calls market democracy as a “justificatory hybrid . . . which combines insights from the classical and liberal traditions at the level of moral foundations” (95).

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