Oceans of ink have already been spilled in the media coverage of Pope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment — and it hasn’t even been released yet. In this reflection, Rev. Robert A. Sirico draws on Catholic social teaching to provide a helpful framework for understanding environmental stewardship. While we wait to find out what’s actually in the new encyclical, expected to be published in June, Acton’s president and co-founder sees a consistent thread of thinking on environmental stewardship that draws on Scripture, core Church teachings and the work of predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II. Rev. Sirico’s video commentary is below.
Three of the most basic principles of economics are that people are price-sensitive, risk-averse, and that they respond to incentives.
If you raise the price of a good or service people will, in general, tend to buy less (price-sensitive). If you give a person a choice between a certain outcome (“I’ll pay you $50 for nothing”) or a higher payoff on an uncertain outcome (“I’ll pay you $100 or nothing based on a coin-flip”), they’ll generally take the less risky option (risk-averse). And if you give people a way to get a lower price without any risk, they’ll generally prefer that option (response to incentives).
Each of these principles seems intuitive, even obvious. Yet for some reason when you combine them to create a public policy people are shocked to find it can have “unintended consequences.
Take, for example, so-called “family-friendly policies” such as employer-mandated childcare, paid maternity leave, or requirements to allow full-time employees to work part-time work when they have a baby. Here is the opening of a recent New York Times article titled, “When Family-Friendly Policies Backfire.”
As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, nail salons across the country are under scrutiny for abusive labor tactics and human trafficking. New York City has taken a hard look at this issue (thank goodness!) and is considering implementing some not-so-well-thought-out policies. Included in this are:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo invoking “emergency measures,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) citing federal legislation on product safety she’s introduced and of course New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presiding over a “day of action.” The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute declares nail salon abuses a function of “national policy failures.”
This approach wants to crack down on salon licensing, shutting down those that are not toeing the line. But will this really help the women being overworked and underpaid? William McGurn doesn’t think so. He also thinks Audrey Hepburn – My Fair Lady – has some answers. (more…)
Feds Blackmail Virginia’s Largest School District Into Transgender Policy
Dustin Siggins, The Federalist
A case in Virginia demonstrates how far the Obama administration will go to force its sexual ideology—regardless of self-governance, local control, and childish innocence
Is the U.S. economy immoral?
James Pethokoukis, The Week
After listening to Sanders, many liberals are probably ready to grab the pitchforks and head to the nearest mansion or mega-bank to demand their fair share.
F.C.C. Chief Seeks Broadband Plan to Aid the Poor
Rebecca R. Ruiz , New York Times
For 30 years, the federal government has helped millions of low-income Americans pay their phone bills, saying that telephone service is critical to summoning medical help, seeking work and, ultimately, climbing out of poverty. Now, the nation’s top communications regulator will propose offering those same people subsidized access to broadband Internet.
Same-sex “Marriage” and the Persecution of Christians in Canada
Lea Z. Singh, Crisis Magazine
The Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms declares that Canadians have a fundamental “freedom of conscience and religion” and “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.” But constitutional guarantees are at the mercy of lawyers, and Canadian lawyers have emerged as among the most fiercely intolerant of anyone, including their own colleagues, who fails to support same-sex “marriage.”
Now that the U.S. has re-established diplomatic relations with Pearl of the Antilles, interest in Cuba is rising. While there are no crystal balls about Cuba’s future, here are a few things we do know about the island-nation’s economy, thanks to Pew Research.
1. Cuba was doing business with the U.S. even before the embargo was lifted. A partial repeal of the embargo allowed for this, and Cuba really needed food, medical supplies and medicine.
2. Cuba’s economic growth has slowed dramatically in the past few years.
The CIA estimates that Cuba’s GDP grew just 1.3% last year in real (inflation-adjusted) terms – 177th out of 222 countries ranked. One big reason: With global oil prices still well below their pre-recession highs, the heavily discounted oil that Venezuela sends Cuba – some of which Cuba re-exports – is less valuable.
In every major city that is increasing the minimum wage (Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles), labor unions have been at the forefront of the change. For example, in an op-ed for the Huffington Post titled “Raise Los Angeles’ Minimum Wage and Enforce It,” Rusty Hicks, a labor leader in L.A. who represents over 300 unions, wrote:
It’s no secret that we believe the minimum wage must be raised in order to lift working families out of poverty. Most voters and many members of the city council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agree with us. But we believe enforcement is the key to success in any new minimum wage policy.
Apparently, what Hicks meant was that enforcement was necessary except when applied to unions. This week—a month after his HuffPo op-ed—Hicks has taken a different perspective:
… Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.
“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”
Commenting on this quote, Tim Worstall says, “It’s difficult to know whether to giggle, guffaw or scream in rage at the arrogance of that.”
I don’t believe there is anything worse than the trafficking of children for sex. Children are often sold by parents because of poverty, are “traded” by adults in their life for drugs or cash, or are lured by traffickers who promise money, affection and support from an adult or children can simply be kidnapped.
Is there any hope for recovering a child lost in this hell?
There is. A unique, successful organization called Operation Underground Railroad is showing the world it can be done. Timothy Ballard is the founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR); Ballard is a former special agent in Homeland Security. There, he worked to bring down child pornography rings and the internet sale of children. With OUR, Ballard has the ability to work with many governments, and work quickly. (more…)
Earlier this month I argued that the moral center and chief objective of American diplomacy should be the promotion of religious freedom. When a country protects religious liberty it must also, whether it intended to or not, recognize a host of other freedoms, such as the freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech. Once these liberties are in place, it becomes more difficult for a country’s government to maintain a single, totalizing ideology.
President Reagan seemed to intuitively understand how increasing religious freedom can shape a nation’s ideology and relationship to the rest of the world. In his new book new book Reagan: The Life, historian H.W. Brands reveals a private conservation between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1988 Moscow summit in which the president encouraged the Soviet leader to embrace religious liberty:
We’ve had an amazing collection of speakers participating in the 2015 Acton Lecture Series, and today we’re pleased to be able to share the video of one of the highlights of the series: George Weigel’s discussion of ten essential things to know about Pope Francis, which he delivered on May 6th.
Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D. C. An eminent Catholic theologian, he’s the author of numerous books, most famously Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II; he’s also a columnist, commentator, and regular guest on radio and TV to discuss Catholic issues. There are few who are better qualified to examine the always surprising and sometimes controversial papacy of Pope Francis.
We present the video of Weigel’s lecture below, and after the jump I’ve included a recent edition of Radio Free Acton, which features a discussion between Weigel, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico, and our Director of Research Samuel Gregg.