Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“States and municipalities craft laws that reflect local cultures, and this proximity to the people has market consequences,” says James Bruce in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Let’s call it free-market federalism, the encouragement of local markets by permitting states and municipalities to frame, as much as possible, the laws by which the communities engage in commerce.”

In a spirited defense of decentralization, Abraham Kuyper argues that a central government can only supplement local governments and families. Put another way, the central government exists because local governments and families already do. It exists for them. They do not exist for it. So Kuyper’s idea of sphere sovereignty supports free-market federalism. Regional governments and municipalities exist as their own sovereign spheres, and they must continue to do so. “To centralize all power in the one central government is to violate the ordinances that God has given for nations and families,” Kuyper wrote. “It destroys the natural divisions that give a nation vitality, and thus destroys the energy of the individual life-spheres and of the individual persons.” This vitality extends to national, regional, and individual economic life.

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

rights-are-not-gitsIn his recent announcement that he was running for president, Sen. Ted Cruz’s said “our rights don’t come from man, they come from God Almighty.”

That raised some eyebrows in our secular culture. For example, Meredith Shiner, a Yahoo reporter, tweeted:”Bizarre to talk about how rights are God-made and not man-made in your speech announcing a POTUS bid? When Constitution was man-made?”

The idea that the “unalienable Rights” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence don’t come from God is considered obvious to many secularists. But if our rights don’t come from God, where do they come from? The obvious answer is “the State.” And as Matt Lewis points out, that means the state can take them away:
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When we hear about church “outreach ministries,” we often think of food pantries, homeless shelters, and community events. But while these can be powerful channels for service and empowerment, many churches are beginning to look for new ways to empower individuals more holistically.

For some, this means abandoning traditional charity altogether, focusing their ministry more directly around recognizing the gifts and strengths of others. For others, like Evangel Ministries in Detroit, it involves a mix of many things, but with a particular emphasis on the power of entrepreneurship to transform lives and communities.

Hear their story here, in a video produced by Made to Flourish:

For Evangel, it’s not just about meeting immediate needs through traditional channels, but about teaching work skills and financial literacy, teaching congregants on the details of permitting, and even in some cases providing investment capital for particular businesses. (more…)

poverty childrenRobert Putnam says our children are in a state of crisis. Those who live in poverty or near-poverty seemed to be doomed to stay there. Those born into families with money will likely go on to enjoy the lives that money affords. His book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, follows a number of individuals, tracking a list of factors, including the ability to move up or down the economic spectrum.

One pivotal factor is marriage:

Highly correlated is whether or not the mother is married. The breakdown of the traditional family, meaning a married mother and father, is very probably an even greater factor than the class divide, race divide, and education gap – to the point that some refer to marriage as “privilege” in the age of modern segregation.

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It is commonplace in Christian circles, whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant, to appeal in public discourse to the inviolable good of human dignity.

Today at Ethika Politika, I seek to answer the question, “What does human dignity look like in real life?” It is fine to talk about it in the abstract, but what does it look like on the job or as a parent?

I write,

Real, flesh-and-blood human persons do not evoke our respect as naturally as an abstract treatise on human dignity might imply. I am reminded of one Peanuts comic in which Linus shouts, “I love mankind … it’s people I can’t stand!” People, as a general rule, all tend toward some form of nerdery, some weird little obsession — such as sports, video games, philosophy, music, or literature — or at least some personal (usually minor) neurosis, like an aversion to a certain smell or fear of spiders or always having to have the last word.

And, frankly, Linus is right, even if he overstates his case. It is a common if not essential feature of personhood that any given person, with enough exposure, will grow annoying to our unsanctified hearts.

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On this week’s edition of Radio Free Acton, Burt and Anita Folsom discuss their latest book, Uncle Sam Can’t Count. We examine whether the government has a good track record in subsidizing industry and innovation, and look at some of the unforeseen consequences of subsidies in society. You can listen via the audio player below, and then be sure to check out the video of Burt’s Acton Lecture Series address as well.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
By

Rights Fallout: “Economic Rights” and the Undevelopment of Poor Countries
Bruce Frohnen, The Imaginative Conservative

The good intentions of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights took place in stages. Drafted in large measure as a response to the horrors of World War II and in the face of the continuing horrors of communism, the 1948 Declaration sought to “transcend” political, religious, and ethnic differences in the name of an abstract notion of human dignity.

Supreme Court Leaves Intact New York’s Ban on Religious Services in Schools
Sharon Otterman and Adam Liptak , New York Times

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to review a case involving New York City’s ban on religious groups holding worship services in public school buildings, leaving in place a decision by a lower court that found the longstanding policy constitutional.

Specializing Is Best
Jason Sorens, Ethics & Economics Education of New England

All wealth comes from production and exchange: making and trading goods and services. The two are closely related: the more you trade, the more you’re able to produce. How does that work? Through the magic of specialization.

Arkansas Senate approves religious protection bill
Andrew Demillo, Associated Press

Supporters of the bill say it merely mirrors a similar federal protection in place for more than 20 years, but opponents say it amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination on religious grounds.

extreme-povertyCan the world put an end to extreme poverty within the next 15 years?

That’s the current goal of the World Bank, and its expected that the United Nations will adopt that same target later this year.

In 1990, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals included a target of halving poverty by 2015. That goal was achieved five years early. In 1990, more than one-third (36 percent) of the world’s population lived in abject poverty; by 2010 the number had been cut in half (18 percent). Today, it is 15 percent.

Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. The new goal is to move almost all the world’s population about that line by 2030. Is that even possible?
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indian surrogatesSupporters of surrogacy tend to believe it is a win-win situation. Someone who desperately wants a child is given the opportunity to be a parent by someone who can have a baby, and is willing to do so either for money or out of benevolence (such as a sister acting as a surrogate for a sibling.) The truth is that the majority of surrogacy cases are ones where money changes hands. And when money changes hands, and the very lives of humans are at stake, things going badly awry.

In India, there is virtually no control over the surrogacy industry, and an industry it is. Gianna Toboni, a reporter for the HBO series Vice, traveled to India to investigate this industry. What she found was a lot of money, Indian women being taken advantage of and human trafficking.

Toboni and her team quickly expose the dark underside of an unregulated and dangerous industry. Women are routinely recruited from slums, made to sign contracts they can’t read, before spending a year living in a facility. Once the baby is born — via cesarean section so that doctors can maximize births per day — the surrogate is sent home, often without the full compensation she was promised.

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British school girls who allegedly joined ISIS in February 2015

British school girls who allegedly joined ISIS in February 2015

In the wild, a lion does not chase down the strong animal at the front of the pack; the lion chooses its prey by doing the least amount of work. The lion picks off the weak, the young, the vulnerable.

ISIS and human traffickers are animals, and they choose their prey accordingly. They seek out the vulnerable, the lonely, the searching. The internet is a fine hunting ground. There have been several stories of late of teen girls being lured from home to join ISIS (see here and here, for instance.)

A British journalist, posing as a teen girl, found out just how easily ISIS can contact and lure a girl. (more…)