In this issue of Religion & Liberty we meet a giant of the Twentieth century: Alexander Solzhenitsyn of Russia. He has been both widely celebrated and widely reviled. His courage is admirable-—risking his life and suffering the torment of the Soviet gulag. Now in his old age, his place is secure as a hero in the history of liberty.
For those unfamiliar with the great Russian, Acton’s own John Couretas provides an excellent introduction to Solzhenitsyn in his review essay. As Couretas notes, because Solzhenitsyn was at the same time a serious Christian, devoted patriot, and defender of liberty, he was not well received by those who thought Christianity and patriotism were enemies of freedom. For those of us who believe in both religion and liberty, Solzhenitsyn is a friend.
I would like to use this space to note the death late last year of Milton Friedman. Professor Friedman’s rather well-known discomfort with religion renders him a rather unsuitable candidate for a profile in pages dedicated to the intersection of religion and liberty, but he remains an important figure. Indeed, that is why he was the chosen interview subject sixteen years ago in only the second issue of Religion & Liberty (Michael Novak was the first). You can read the 1991 interview at www.acton.org and see how reluctant he was to entertain a positive role for religion.
Yet it is important that Friedman be remembered as an advocate for the personal liberty we argue for at Acton, and not merely economic efficiency. To be sure, he believed that economic liberty produced greater economic wealth and better opportunities for the poor. Yet he was passionately committed to economic freedom as an essential part of human liberty itself. Indeed, as is not often remarked, Friedman went so far as to argue that he would favor free markets and economic liberty even if those arrangements were less economically efficient. His argument was that such liberties corresponded to human nature and therefore were appropriate for societies in which men and women were to flourish. The argument for liberty is one principally concerned with the nature of the human person and his good. And because it begins with who the human person is, it is the happy result that human liberty also makes for good politics and efficient economics.
One other note: I hope our feature interview with Arthur C. Brooks will encourage many readers to look at his important book, Who Really Cares—a study of charitable giving. Longtime readers of Religion & Liberty will not be surprised by his findings, but they are remarkable nonetheless and deserve wide attention.