Acton Institute, Director of Research, Samuel GreggAs we approach our upcoming April 29th Conference in Rome “Faith, State, and the Economy: Perspectives from East and West“, Acton’s Research Director, Samuel Gregg shares his insights on the relationship between religious and economic liberty and the threats society now faces. Gregg also discusses where he thinks places like Europe and America are heading, as well as what some of the guest speakers will talk about during the conference.

PowerBlog: Why is the Acton Institute’s upcoming April 29th Conference in Rome “Faith, State, and the Economy: Perspectives from East to West” so important and timely?

Samuel Gregg: Religious liberty is obviously an enormous issue today for Catholics as well as other Christians. The sheer number of people who are being killed each year because of their Christian faith should be disturbing for everyone.

What’s often missed, however, is how diminutions in religious freedom affect other liberties, including economic freedom, and vice-versa. Taking away or severely limiting people’s economic liberty because of their religion has been a classic means by which governments have tried to indirectly undermine people’s attachment to their faith. This was one of the tactics used by the government of Queen Elizabeth I against Catholics in England in the sixteenth century, and, I would add, rather successful. And whether it is in the West, the Middle East, or East Asia, we can see this and others patterns emerging in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. (more…)

crony-capitalismPoliticians don’t come cheap. To buy one’s influence you generally need deep pockets, which is why crony capitalism tends to be the domain of “big business.” But a recent article in Slate by California restaurateur Jay Porter shows that some small business owners dream of being cronies too.

Cronyism occurs when an individual or organization colludes with government officials to create legislation or regulations that give them forced benefits they could not have otherwise obtained voluntarily. Those benefits come at the expense of consumers, taxpayers, and everyone working hard to compete in the marketplace.

Not all legislation that affects businesses and consumers is promoted by cronies. But cronies almost always attempt to hijack such legislation. Take, for example, minimum wage increases. As I’ve noted before, both sides of the debate tend to believe they are arguing in defense of the poor. But some people don’t really care about how minimum wage affects the poor – they care about how it affects their bottom-line.

Porter is a prime example of a crony who unapologetically supports raising the minimum wage because it would benefit his business:
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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Most people don’t put “Catholic philosophy” and “ecology” in the same thought, but Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s writing prove that the Church has much to say about ecology. In the newly published The Garden of God: Toward a Human Ecology, the former pope’s teachings about human life, the environment and physical and social sciences are engagingly presented. According to William L. Patenaude at The Catholic World Report:

The timing of this book is particularly good. Of late, environmental scientists are escalating their individual warnings. And the month of April finds a great many Earth Day celebrations taking place across the globe. With the help of The Garden of God, Catholics can better engage the ecological movement by discerning what we share with other environmental advocates and what we don’t.

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Beware of “environmental consciousness” masquerading as authentic spiritual practice, says Fr. Michael Butler and Prof. Andrew Morriss in this week’s Acton Commentary:

It is important to clarify the Church’s teaching on asceticism because many voices in the environmental movement encourage a kind of ascetical lifestyle in the name of “ethical consumption.” Orthodox writers on the environment are not immune to the temptation of putting the ascetical tradition of the Church in the service of another agenda. For example, the conclusion of the Inter-Orthodox Conference on Environmental Protection, held in Crete in 1991, states: “Humanity needs a simpler way of life, a renewed asceticism, for the sake of creation.”

The full text of their essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

John Turturro

John Turturro

Fading Gigolo,” a movie starring and directed by John Turturro, is apparently a sentimental look at the world of prostitution. NPR says the film keeps ” the mood light even as the filmmaker is gently tugging the plot in other directions, to look at loneliness and longing and heartbreak.” Turturro himself says that sex workers are rather like social workers (which should thrill  social workers):

I think there are positive things about what sex workers do. I know and consulted people who have been in that world, and it’s interesting on a human level that people sometimes go to these people for reasons beyond just sexual contact – maybe they’re looking for solace, or other things, and sometimes they are truly helped. I also think there’s a real exchange that goes on in these situations, whereas in so many other professions there isn’t.

He says a lot of other idiotic things that I won’t subject you to here; feel free to read the entire article if you must. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth Day, a Humbug? From Resurrection to Recycling
Stephen Turley, The Imaginative Conservative

My student furls her brow; “What on earth does Easter have to do with saving the environment?”

Do Your Duty
Gene Edward Veith, Ligonier Ministries

We have vocations in the family, the workplace, the nation, and the church. That means that we also have duties in each of these estates. Most people still feel some sense of duty in these areas, however vaguely thought through, though the Bible ramps up these duties considerably and charges them with spiritual significance.

Abraham Kuyper Was a Heretic Too
Derek Rishmawy, Reformedish

Persons are not static realities. We have storied identities full of development, regression, and plot turns galore. That’s what we see on display is the story of Kuyper. For all intents and purposes, Kuyper was a heretic. He ended a stalwart defender of the faith.

What’s the Point of Common Grace?
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

For most of us, our jobs and everyday activities bring us in contact with non-believers. We work alongside them day after day. How do we think biblically about this situation?

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, April 22, 2014

North_America_from_low_orbiting_satellite_Suomi_NPPIt is becoming increasingly common for theologians to recommend asceticism as a more eco-friendly lifestyle, as Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss note in their recent monograph, Creation and the Heart of Man. And that, no doubt, it can be.

However, as Butler and Morriss point out, it is very important, from an Orthodox perspective at least, to understand precisely what asceticism is. Rightly understood, they note, “to be ascetic is to learn to live rightly on the earth with God, our neighbor, and creation.” (more…)

FeaturedImageOn this Earth Day, says Pierre Desrochers, we should spare a thought for the profit motive, an unheralded but long-standing champion of the environment. “The search for increased profitability,” ntoes Desrochers, “has long delivered both economic and environmental improvements by promoting the evermore efficient use of material resources.”

With Earth Day near (this Monday), we hear the usual annual litany of laments from environmentalists, urging us to mend the errors of our industrial ways. Greed and profits, we are told in no uncertain terms, inevitably result in unmanageable pollution problems, the depletion of non-renewable resources, habitat and species destruction, and a regulatory “race to the bottom” among competing jurisdictions.

[. . .]

Typically missing from this debate, however, is the notion that the search for increased profitability has long delivered both economic and environmental improvements by promoting the increasingly efficient use of material resources, or, in other words, the creation of ever more economic value while using ever less physical stuff. While this notion is obvious in an age where whole libraries can be stored on small electronic devices, perhaps the best statement on the subject still belongs to Jonathan Swift, who argued nearly three centuries ago in Gulliver’s Travels that whoever “could make two Ears of Corn, or two blades of Grass to grow upon a Spot of Ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of Mankind, and do more essential Service to his Country than the whole Race of Politicians put together.

One small quibble: Desrochers’ otherwise fine article is marred by the title’s equating of the profit motive with “greed.” While I’m sure the term was merely used for rhetorical effect, the promotion of free enterprise is always harmed by the unnecessary association with the sinful and destructive motive of greed.

dunce capPerhaps you’ve seen this: the 8th grade test from Bullitt County Schools in Kentucky, circa 1912. Here are a few questions the 8th graders were expected to be able to answer:

  • Define latitude and longitude
  • Locate the Erie Canal. What waters does it connect, and why is this important?
  • How does the liver compare in size with other glands in the human body? Where is it located? What does it secrete?
  • Define the following types of government: democracy, limited monarchy, absolute monarchy, republic. Give an example of each.
  • Who invented the following: magnetic, telegraph, cotton gin, sewing machine, telephone, phonograph

102 years later, and education is now in the hands of education researchers. According to Max Eden, these folks study very different things that the 8th-graders of yore. Eden, writing at National Review Online, says he eagerly dug into the report of the American Educational Research Association, twenty-thousand of whom descended upon Philadelphia a few weeks ago. (more…)

Christian Church in Middle EastThis past weekend, Christians around the world commemorated the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to ponder how Easter was celebrated in the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity and the region in which these very events unfolded. There is one factor, however, that may have made the liturgical festivities less expansive and well-attended than one might imagine: the minimal number of Christians in the region. In the Middle East, the number of Christians has dwindled to less than 10 percent of the region’s population. This diminishing number is not, however, simply a result of natural immigration patterns or conversions to other faiths; it also reflects the determination of intolerant and extremist governments and associated groups to drive them out.

In a Wall Street Journal article titled, “The Middle East War on Christians,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, explains that in Iraq alone over the past 10 years, “nearly two-thirds of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have been driven from their homes.” Prosor then adds:
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