Acton Institute

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Acton Institute
Motto Connecting good intentions with sound economics
Formation 1990
Type Public policy think tank
Headquarters 98 E. Fulton Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Robert A. Sirico, Kris Alan Mauren
Revenue: $12,680,511
Expenses: $7,358,337
(FYE December 2012)[1]

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is an American research and educational institution,[2] or think tank, in Grand Rapids, Michigan (with an office in Rome) whose stated mission is "to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles".[3] Its work supports free market economic policy framed within Judeo-Christian morality.[4][5] It has been alternately described as conservative[6][7][8] and libertarian.[9][10][11]


Acton founders Robert Sirico (left) and Kris Mauren (right) with Ronald Reagan in his library.

The Acton Institute was founded in 1990 in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Robert A. Sirico and Kris Alan Mauren.[12] It is named after the English historian, politician and writer Lord Acton, who is popularly associated with the dictum "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".[13] Sirico and Mauren were concerned that many religious people were ignorant of economic realities, and that many economists and businessmen were insufficiently grounded in religious principles.[14] Sirico explains the essential link between economics and religion with reference to the institute's namesake:

Acton realized that economic freedom is essential to creating an environment in which religious freedom can flourish. But he also knew that the market can function only when people behave morally. So faith and freedom must go hand in hand. As he put it, "Liberty is the condition which makes it easy for conscience to govern".[15]

The release in 1991 of the papal encyclical Centesimus annus buoyed the institute at a critical time. The document provided, a year after Acton's founding, established support for the institute's economic personalism and defense of capitalism. Robert Sirico said at the time that it constituted a "vindication".[14][16][17]

In 2002, the Institute opened a Rome office, Istituto Acton, which carries out Acton’s mission abroad.[18] In 2004, the Institute was given the Templeton Freedom Award for its "extensive body of work on the moral defense of the free market".[18] In 2012, the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania included Acton in its list of the top 50 think tanks in the United States.[19]

International affiliates[edit]

The Acton Institute has built a network of international affiliations including Centro Interdisciplinar de Ética e Economia Personalista, Brazil, Europa Institut, Austria, Institute for the Study of Human Dignity and Economic Freedom, Zambia and Instituto Acton Argentina Organization.[20]

Conferences and events[edit]

The Acton Institute hosts programs throughout the world for business, educational, and religious leaders.[21][22] These programs take various forms and include:

Acton founder Kris Mauren (right) chats with Acton University 2011 participants at the conference
  • Acton University: Acton's annual conference in Grand Rapids is its largest and most international event (participants from 70 different countries).[22] The conference is focused on the convergence of philosophy, theology, and economics in the intellectual foundations of a free society.[14][23][24]
  • "Toward a Free and Virtuous Society" conferences: Seminars that apply social justice principles to economics; held several times a year since the institute's founding for future religious leaders.[31]

Research and publications[edit]

From its guiding principles and economic research, the institute publishes books, papers, and periodicals, and maintains a media outreach effort.[2][22]

  • Journal of Markets & Morality:
Internationally renowned peer-reviewed journal that explores the intersection of economics and morality from scientific and theological points of view. Published semi-annually.[2][35][36][37]
  • Monographs:
In-depth treatments of specific policy issues and translations of scholarly works previously unpublished in English.[22][37][38]
  • Abraham Kuyper Translation Project:
In 2011, the institute began a collaboration with Kuyper College to translate into English the three-volume work Common Grace (De Gemene Gratie in Dutch) of politician, journalist and Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper. The work, written from 1901-05 while he was Prime minister of the Netherlands, addresses the advance of both Marxism and libertarianism from an ecumenical Christian viewpoint as part of an effort to build a "constructive public theology" for the Western world.[39][40] The first volume of the translation, Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, was unveiled in November, 2011.[41]
  • Religion & Liberty:
Quarterly publication which covers the interworking of liberty and morality: contains interviews, book reviews, scholarly essays, brief biographies of central thinkers, and discussions of important topics.[16][37]
  • The Samaritan Guide:
Through 2008, the institute gave an annual Samaritan Award to a "highly successful, privately funded charity whose work is direct, personal, and accountable".[42] The Samaritan Guide was produced to encourage effective charitable giving by establishing a rating system for charities considered for the Samaritan Award.[43]
  • Acton Notes:
The bimonthly newsletter of the Acton Institute; contains reports of projects and goings on at the institute.[44]
  • The Acton PowerBlog:
Since April 2005 the institute has provided a synthesis of religion and economics on its blog.[45]

Notable individuals associated with the Acton Institute[edit]

Besides Sirico, notable scholars associated with the institute include Anthony Bradley,[46] Jordan Ballor,[47] Stephen Grabill,[48] Michael Matheson Miller,[49] Marvin Olasky,[50] Kevin Schmiesing,[51] and Jonathan Witt.[52] The institute's director of research is Samuel Gregg, author of the prize-winning book The Commercial Society.[53] President of the Atlas Network, Alejandro Chafuen serves on the board and is a senior fellow at the institute.[54] Andreas Widmer is a research fellow in entrepreneurship for the research department.[55]

Notable members of the institute’s board of directors include Gaylen Byker, Frank Hanna III, and John C Kennedy III.[56]


As of 2007, the Institute had received funding from the Earhart Foundation and the Bradley Foundation.[37][57] As of 2005 they had also received $155,000 from ExxonMobil.[58]

See also[edit]

  • State Policy Network – an American network of free-market oriented think tanks of which Acton is a member


  1. ^ "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.  Also see "GuideStar Summary". GuideStar. 
  2. ^ a b c Andrews, Cory (2006), "Acton Institute", American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, p. 8 
  3. ^ Acton Institute. About the Acton Institute. Retrieved 11 July 2011
  4. ^ Burke, Greg (8 September 1991). "The Market & Liberty". National Catholic Register (North Haven, CT). 
  5. ^ Worrall, Malika (December 20, 2007). "New film promotes entrepreneurship as divine". Fortune Small Business. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Leland, John (March 27, 2005). "Did Descartes Doom Terri Schiavo?". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Stammer, Larry B. (April 7, 2001). "Bush Turn on Treaty Galvanizes New Green Coalition". The Los Angeles Times. 
  8. ^ McBrien, Father Richard P. (May 29, 2005). "Pope chronicles". The Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ Gibson, David (April 29, 2014). "Conservatives squawk over pope’s tweet on inequality". Religion News Service. 
  10. ^ Gibson, David (September 10, 2014). "Regensburg Redux: Was Pope Benedict XVI right about Islam?". Religion News Service. 
  11. ^ Henneberger, Melinda (June 6, 2014). "Can you be Catholic and libertarian?". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ Convissor, Kate (August 1999). "The Acton Institute: Of Morality & the Marketplace." Grand Rapids Magazine 36-37
  13. ^ Sullivan, Elizabeth (February 1993). "Rev. Robert Sirico: Inside Track." Grand Rapids Business Journal: 5-6.
  14. ^ a b c Coulter, Michael F., ed. (2007), "Acton Institute", Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy 1, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, pp. 5–7 
  15. ^ Koshelnyk, William J. (1996). "Separation of Church and ... Capitalism". The American Voice 1 (5). pp. 6–7. 
  16. ^ a b Bandow, Doug (26 November 1992). "Preaching liberty to the unconverted". The Washington Times (Washington, D.C.). 
  17. ^ Harger, Jim (1 May 1991). "Free enterprise wins moral victory". The Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI). 
  18. ^ a b c (13 March 2004). "Acton Institute awarded for work in economics and ethics." The Grand Rapids Press.
  19. ^ "2012 Global Go To Think Tanks Report and Policy Advice". Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania. January 24, 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-06-27. 
  20. ^ "International Affiliates". Archived from the original on 4 July 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 
  21. ^ a b Payne, Scott (March 2001). "Acton Institute Officer Dubious About Bush Proposal." Grand Rapids Business Journal.
  22. ^ a b c d Heather Richardson (Spring 1992). "Connecting Morals to Markets". Philanthropy 6 (2): 4–5. 
  23. ^ "Acton University". Acton Institute. 
  24. ^ KAI (20 June 2011). "USA: Europa potrzebuje twórczej roli religii." Accessed 18 July 2011.
  25. ^ Deiters, Barton (23 October 2002). "Fed president preaches to Acton choir." The Grand Rapids Press.
  26. ^ Runyon, Cathy (16 June 1996). "Charles Colson lauds Acton Institute's moral directive." East Grand Rapids Cadence.
  27. ^ Westen, John-Henry (31 January 2006). "Vatican Cardinal: "We are realizing the worst prophecies of aging and demographic implosion"". LifeSite News. 
  28. ^ "Centesimus annus Conference Series". Acton Institute. 
  29. ^ Roback Morse, Jennifer (13 March 2006). "Europe Ends with a Shrug". National Catholic Register. 
  30. ^ Lev, Elizabeth (26 January 2006). "God at the Pub". Zenit News Agency. 
  31. ^ Ketchum, Jim (13 June 1992). "Institute: Religion and business can mix". The Times Herald (Port Huron, MI). 
  32. ^ Runyon, Cathy (16 June 1992). "Speaker helps determine how to save earth - and money". Grand Valley Advance (Jenison, MI). 
  33. ^ Runyon, Cathy (8 January 1992). "Acton Institute counters concept that personal profit is sinful". Grand Rapids Advance (Grand Rapids, MI).
  34. ^ Moore, Charley (29 August 1994). "Religious philosopher kicks off lecture series". Grand Rapids Press. 
  35. ^ Rosmini, Antonio (2007). The Constitution under Social Justice. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-0725-9.
  36. ^ HighBeam Research. "Journal of Markets & Morality." [1]. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  37. ^ a b c d "Liberty, Economics, and the Clergy". Organization Trends (Washington, D.C.: Capital Research Center). July 1992. 
  38. ^ Baker, Hunter (24 January 2011). "Jordan Ballor on Ecumenical Babel". Mere Comments (Touchstone Magazine). Archived from the original on 26 June 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  39. ^ Kopenkoskey, Paul R. (28 May 2011). "'Grace' translation under way". The Grand Rapids Press. pp. C1–C2. 
  40. ^ "Acton Institute and Kuyper College launch ‘Common Grace,’ a major Abraham Kuyper translation project" (Press release). The Acton Institute. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  41. ^ "Christian’s Library Press Launches New Kuyper Book in San Francisco and Grand Rapids" (Press release). Christian's Library Press. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  42. ^ "Award - The Samaritan Guide". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  43. ^ Olasky, Marvin (1 September 2007). "Fighting the Good Poverty Fight". WORLD Magazine (Ashville, NC). 
  44. ^ "Acton Notes". Archived from the original on 4 July 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  45. ^ Couretas, John. "Welcome to the Acton Institute PowerBlog." Acton Institute PowerBlog. 4 April 2005. [2]
  46. ^ "About Anthony Bradley". Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^ Gregg, Samuel (2006). The Commercial Society (pbk ed.). Lexington Books. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-7391-1994-5. Retrieved September 2013. 
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^ Board of Directors, Board of Advisors, Acton Institute
  57. ^ R., Mosey (2009). 2030, the coming tumult: unlimited growth on a finite planet. City: Algora Publishing. pp. 166–167. ISBN 0-87586-744-8. 
  58. ^

External links[edit]