Blog author: jcarter
Friday, October 31, 2014
By

man_thinking_numbersIs the murder rate in the U.S. increasing or decreasing? What percentage of teen girls will give birth this year? What percentage of Americans are Christian or Muslim? What percentage are immigrants?

If you guess wrong, you’re not alone. A new global survey, building on work in the UK last year for the Royal Statistical Society, finds that most people in the countries surveyed were wildly wrong. For instance, Americans guess wrong on each of the following questions:

• What Percentage of Girls Age 15-19 Give Birth Each Year? (Avg. guess: 24 percent; Actual: 3 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Muslim? (Avg. guess: 15 percent; Actual: 1 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Christian? (Avg. guess: 56 percent; Actual: 78 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Immigrants? (Avg. guess: 32 percent; Actual: 13 percent)

• What Percentage of People Voted in the Last Major Election? (Avg. guess: 57 percent; Actual: 67 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Unemployed and Looking For Work? (Avg. guess: 32 percent; Actual: 6 percent)

While these examples may seem relatively trivial, they highlight that when it comes to numbers that shape policy and politics, many Americans are extremely confused. Ideally, before making a decision about how to vote or stressing about the latest health threat, we’d research the numbers to develop an informed decision. But the number of issues we face each day often prevents us from doing more than making a “best guess.”

Fortunately, there are ways we can hone our skills at guessing and estimation — guesstimation — that will help us minimize our innumeracy. Here are a few tips for making better guesses about numbers related to politics, policy, and demographics:
(more…)

The 2014 Acton Lecture Series took a dramatic turn last week as we welcomed G.K. Chesterton – or at least a quite remarkable facsimile of Chesterton in the form of Chuck Chalberg, who travels the country performing in character as Chesterton, among other notable historic figures. In this presentation, Chalberg’s Chesterton speaks about America, which he thought was the only country with the soul of a church.  He also addresses the state of the family–and not just the American family–past and present.  His starting point–and end point– is this: “Without the family we are helpless before the state.” We hope you enjoy the performance as much as we did!

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, October 31, 2014
By

The Big Role of Black Churches in Two Senate Races
Nate Cohn, New York Times

Early voting on Sundays has been one of the biggest fronts in the voting wars of recent years. Some of this past Sunday’s early voting numbers make the reason quite clear.

The Last Thing We Should Do Right Now Is Raise The Minimum Wage
Andrew Quinn, The Federalist

Our economy’s urgent moral crisis is not insufficient returns from full-time work. It is insufficient access to full-time work.

Does the Church Favor Capitalism and Democracy?
Anthony Santelli, Crisis Magazine

The popes did consistently reject socialism and give better remarks for what is often called democratic capitalism. But we need to look more specifically at what the popes really praised.

Study: Competition from Uber and Lyft Helps the Poor
Josh Peterson, The Daily Signal

Low fares of competing taxi and ridesharing services mean better service for low-income communities, according to a study published Tuesday.

I worked alongside several Acton Institute colleagues and Coldwater Media for years on the Poverty, Inc. full-length documentary film, which tackles the question: Fighting poverty is big business, but who profits the most? It was gratifying to watch it Monday at what I’m told was the only sold out showing of the 2014 Austin Film Festival.

It was at the first dine-in movie theatre I’ve visited, the Alamo Draft House, which meant we were watching a film about extreme global poverty while being plied with beer, cokes, popcorn and pizza. Since my feelings toward the film border on the maternal, and since I had some delicious Tex-Mex before arriving and was not the least bit hungry, I was tempted to stand and in the stentorian voice of The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob exclaim, “Down with your greedy forks and steins! Silence!!! This … is … ART! There … on the screen … are the HUDDLED MASSES! Have you no SHAME!” (more…)

Yeomni Park is a 21-year-old defector from the nation of North Korea. She and her mother (who was considered a criminal for moving without permission) escaped the brutal North Korean regime. They ended up in China…and things got worse. As we continue to hear more on the “war on women” in America’s political battles, it is good to remember that the terrible suffering of women (and men) in places like North Korea and China.

unequal_soup_business_deskThe topic of economic inequality continues to be at the forefront of our current political discussions, thanks in no small part by a president who calls it “the defining challenge of our time.”

But although such concerns are more typically lobbed about rather carelessly and thoughtlessly — cause folks to fret over the “power” of small business owners and entrepreneurs in a mythological zero-sum market ecosystem — there are indeed scenarios in which the rise of such inequality ought to give us pause.

In his book Integrated Justice and Equality: Biblical Wisdom for Those Who Do Good Works, John Teevan challenges those former assumptions, noting the dangers of observing inequality at the surface (“the rich get richer!”) and the destruction of knee-jerk redistributionist policies. Yet he also duly recognizes that what lies beneath that surface can sometimes be rather nasty indeed.

We may not live in the landed aristocratic context of the French Revolution, but distortions to market forces are increasingly promoted, leading to lots of tiny barriers over the long run. When passed and implemented, these are bound to trap the downtrodden and further insulate the rich and powerful. Where the “rich get richer” in this type of setting, problems surely abound. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, October 30, 2014
By

Following up on the recent discussions of envy, here’s a bit from Russell Kirk’s book on economics:

It would be easy enough to list other moral beliefs and customs that are part of the foundation of a prosperous economy, but we draw near to the end of this book. So instead we turn back, for a moment, to one vice we discussed earlier—and to the virtue which is the opposite of that vice.

The vice is called envy; the virtue is called generosity.

Envy is a sour emotion that condemns a person to loneliness. Generosity is an emotion that attracts friends.
(more…)

I was transfixed by this video the other day. The simplicity of the video itself, the careful, skillful work, the lovely hands of a master at work – all brought to mind the goodness of work and creation that God granted to us. St. John Paul II, in his encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) says this:

It is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man’s dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it. If one wishes to define more clearly the ethical meaning of work, it is this truth that one must particularly keep in mind. Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being”.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 30, 2014
By

4 of Christianity’s Biggest Financial Blunders
Dave Albertson, On Faith

The Christian church has made some world-changing mistakes with money.

India’s charities tackle poverty through business
BBC

The Society for Child Development, which runs this programme, says the process does not just reduce waste but creates livelihoods. It says charity is not a solution. What they look for is a market to sell their goods.

Minimum wage, maximum damage
Iain Murray and Ryan Young, Washington Examiner

The overwhelming majority of empirical studies into the effects of the minimum wage find that it erodes employment.

If You Care About The Poor, Care About Marriage
Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist

If you care about the poor, you need to start caring much more about marriage culture. The growing marriage divide is a major source of social and economic inequality, and is one largely unnoticed force eroding the American Dream. That’s the sobering message of a new report on economic success and marriage decline.

anniseparkerEarlier this month the city of Houston sent out a subpoena to five area pastors demanding to see:

All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.

Houston mayor Annise Parker even appeared to support the measure, saying on her Twitter account, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?”

But after a national outcry — that included hundreds of Bibles being sent to her office — the mayor has decided to change her position. Today she announced she’s withdrawing the subpoenas:
(more…)