In Leonard Reed’s famous essay, “I, Pencil,” he marvels over the cooperation and collaboration involved in the assembly of a simple pencil — a complex coordination that is quite miraculously uncoordinated. 

In a short video from economist Alex Tabarrok, the same lesson is applied to Valentine’s Day roses:

“Behind every Valentine’s Day rose, there’s an extensive network of people from all over the world,” says Tabarrok, “from the farmer to the shipper to the auctioneer to the retailer—all cooperating to produce and transport roses from field to hand in a matter of days.”

But though these countless creative partners are surely acting out of some degree of self-interest, and though (in this case) they are working to enable and empower what we presume to be “loving” exchanges, there is something deeper going on throughout the activity. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, February 12, 2016
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Why Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill Will Make Christian History in Cuba Tomorrow
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

ISIS persecution of Christians prompts first meeting between Catholic and Orthodox primates since 1054.

EPA Goes After Low-Income Farmers In Land Grab
Blake Hurst, The Federalist

The Supreme Court says the Clean Water Act is not a grant of federal control over every stream and depression in the nation. The Environmental Protection Agency says otherwise.

The World Isn’t Less Free Than It Used To Be
Jay Ulfelder, FiveThirtyEight

People on Earth were on average about as free at the start of 2016 as they were a year earlier, and the average global resident remained much freer than at almost any time in modern history.

Most Americans Say Government Doesn’t Do Enough to Help Middle Class
Pew Research

GOP seen as favoring the rich over middle class, poor; mixed views on which class the Democratic Party favors.

francis-and-krill-mugs-duo.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxWhat’s going on?

Tomorrow, for the first time in history, a Roman Catholic pontiff and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet face to face. According to the joint press release of the Holy See and of the Patriarchate of Moscow:

The Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow are pleased to announce that, by the grace of God, His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet on February 12. Their meeting will take place in Cuba, where the Pope will make a stop on his way to Mexico, and where the Patriarch will be on an official visit. It will include a personal conversation at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, and will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration.

The meeting is scheduled to last about two hours. Cuba’s President Raúl Castro will join the two religious leaders during the exchange of gifts.

Why are they meeting? 

According to Vatican Insider, Metropolitan Hilarion said in a recent press conference that the the historic meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope “had been in the making for about 20 years” but was speeded up by the “Christian genocide” being caused by terrorists. In the face of what is going on and is “causing concern” to both Churches, the two spiritual leaders simply “had to meet.”

Vladimir Legoida, head of the Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations and the Mass Media, said the meeting is called for by the need to exert joint efforts in giving help to Christian communities in the Middle East countries.

Although many problems in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church remain unresolved, the protection of Christians in the Middle East against the genocide is a challenge that requires urgent united efforts.…The exodus of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa countries is a catastrophe for the whole world.

Why are they meeting in Cuba?
(more…)

Previously this week, The Wall Street Journal presented a list of “7 Things Investors Should Be Watching for a 2016 Unfolds.” While there’s much in Michael A. Pollock’s article to recommend it to readers who might’ve missed it, there’s also one significant omission – Number Eight, if you will: A Rise in Proxy Resolutions by Religious Shareholder Activists.

Shortly after reading the WSJ article, your writer received an email from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the “corporate God-flies” who mask an actual leftist political agenda with their supposed faith-based concerns over social issues related to climate change and corporate spending on lobbying and politics. ICCR’s email announces the group’s increased efforts to stymie the best interests of the companies in which they invest in 2016 – without mentioning how their activities also negatively impact fellow shareholders as well as company customers and employees. Yet ICCR is undeterred in its efforts in a year thus far beset upon by great economic uncertainty and volatility:

Shareholder proposals on climate change and corporate lobbying and political spending head the list of 257 resolutions filed by ICCR members at 174 companies in the 2016 proxy season. Over one-third of total proposals this year are climate-related, including those related to corporate lobbying, revealing how climate change is viewed as a major risk for investors and engagements on how companies are mitigating these risks are taking on greater importance.

(more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, February 11, 2016
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beautiful-tree-private-schools-poorOne of the popular targets of foreign aid is education, and understandably so. Yet as with most solutions sprouting from Western planners and do-gooders, the reality on the ground is a bit different than we typically imagine. Likewise, the solutions are often closer than we’re led to believe.

In his book, The Beautiful Tree, James Tooley chronicles his own investigative journey throughout the developing world, seeking to uncover the local realities of educational opportunity. Originally commissioned by the World Bank to investigate private schools in a dozen developing countries, Tooley began with the assumption that such schools were designed for and confined to the middle classes and elite.

What he found, however, was a situation far more rich and varied.

Beginning in the city of Hyderabad, India, Tooley’s targets initially appeared as expected: private schools designed for the prosperous and privileged. One day, however, on a holiday off from his usual research, he ventured into the city’s slums, spontaneously stumbling on a private school created by and for the local community. He soon met the school’s headmaster, who explained the widespread dissatisfaction with public schooling, from over-crowded classrooms to chronically absent teachers to the severe lack of accountability or parental control. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 11, 2016
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In Sex Trafficking, ‘Kids Are Renewable Resources’
Emily Deruy, The Atlantic

Authorities and advocates in Reno are finding it harder to identify victims and perpetrators, in part due to social media.

Low-Skilled Workers Flee the Minimum Wage
Corey Iacono, FEE

What happens when, in a country where workers are free to move, a region raises its minimum wage? Do those with the fewest skills seek out the regions with the highest wage floors?

The Flawed Economics of Laudato Si’
W. David Montgomery, The New Atlantis

Laudato Si’ provides a moral framework for addressing climate change based on Christian obligations to help the global poor most affected by it. In stressing these obligations, the encyclical fills a large gap in discussions of climate policy, which are replete with statements of what should be done but tend to lack a convincing moral framework for explaining where such obligations comes from or why they should be accepted when they conflict with particular interests.

Wake up, Christians: The Flint water crisis is an issue of public justice
Kevin R. den Dulk, Washington Post

For Christians, access to water ought not be about the arbitrariness of birth and geography or the vagaries of power. It is a matter of justice, and our response is grounded in God’s call to seek shalom, in this case by addressing the access problems and inevitable conflicts that arise when a good is both basic and unevenly distributed.

acton-commentary-blogimage“Sociological determinism informs our public policy,” says Ismael Hernandez in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Those with a stake in the maintenance and expansion of government bureaucracies feed upon pathology and find a willing constituency among those who perceive the world in terms of victims and perpetrators.”

If men are not free, they are not responsible for their misdeeds and ought instead to be treated with pity for falling prey to tragic misfortunes. They are to be healed by those who understand their powerlessness. Such enabling has produced a host of psychotherapeutic terms and treatments attempting to explain every human condition and every degrading act.

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