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
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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…)

screen_shot_20150330_at_12.32.27_pm.png.CROP.rtstory-large.32.27_pmFormer Oklahoma University student Levi Pettit and his friends did a terrible thing. The frustration and anger at the very racist chant about the lynching of African Americans by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is understandable and justified. However, in light of Levi Pettit’s act of public repentance, our response reveals how we understand a key aspect of Easter. Those who painfully forgive Pettit demonstrate a central pillar of the Passion of Christ whereas those who refuse to forgive Pettit inadvertently render the death and resurrection of Christ meaningless.

Torraine Walker’s op-ed at Huffington Post is a great example of an anti-Easter response to Pettit. Walker says that he is not buying Pettit’s apology. “Why are people of color expected to automatically forgive a racist who hasn’t proven themselves changed? These apologies always feel so fake and inauthentic.” Walker says that Pettit’s response is an example of a “Racial Apology Ritual” because it was manufactured and fake. Walker concludes,
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1024px-Oliver_Stone_and_Cristina_Kirchner

President Cristina Kirchner and Oliver Stone (Wikimedia Commons/Presidencia de la Nación Argentina)

Earlier this month, Acton and Instituto Acton Argentina hosted a daylong conference exploring the relationship between religious and economic freedom. Scholars from around the world, including Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg, traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to discuss the ways in which Christianity has contributed to building the foundations of freedom. In a new article for the American Spectator, Gregg discusses some issues he observed while visiting the country:

The first thing I noticed while recently lecturing in Argentina was just how much conditions had deteriorated since my last visit in 2010. The center of Buenos Aires is an impressive mixture of Art Deco, Baroque, nineteenth-century Parisian, and colonial styles alongside often surprisingly tasteful modern architecture. Amidst those same streets, however, it’s hard not to observe the increased number of beggars, the people befuddled by drink and drugs, the prostitutes, and the numerous homeless sleeping in doorways and the many elegant parks. Moreover, once you drive a few miles away from Buenos Aires’s center, you quickly encounter shanty towns that are no-go areas for the police.

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Portrait Of Author Mercy Otis WarrenIt is not often that women of the American Revolutionary War era are described as “formidable” and “intellectual,” but Mercy Otis Warren is such a woman. Born to wealthy Cape Cod family in 1728, Warren received no formal education but was tutored by her uncle. In 1754, she married James Warren, who became a Massachusetts state senator.

It was the murder of her brother at the hands of colonial revenue officers that drove Warren to political writings and action. (more…)