Blog author: jcarter
Friday, May 22, 2015
By

Can We Have Religious Liberty In Modern America?
Luma Simms, The Federalist

Our liberty is a natural right protected via constant tension between all of our branches of government, representing the tensions between all of us as a people. It is through this tension that we ought to end up with equal and just laws that are good for society as a whole.

‘Sin taxes’ yield more than double business taxes in Mich.
Chad Livengood, The Detroit News

Smokers and drinkers paid more taxes last year than Michigan companies paid in net business income taxes — a new development that’s likely to inflame a raging legislative debate about the fairness of the state’s tax code.

Teenage Wageland
Jared Meyer, City Journal

Los Angeles cuts off a rung of its economic ladder.

Trade legislation overcomes Senate filibuster
Timothy B. Lee, Vox

On Thursday the Senate cleared a key procedural hurdle to passing Trade Promotion Authority, which would guarantee President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership an up-or-down vote in Congress.

The federal government spent more than $100 billion providing food assistance to Americans last year, according to recent testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Eighteen federal programs provided food to 46 million people—approximately 1 out of every 7 Americans. Here are the programs and the dollar amount spent:

gao-foodprograms The GAO found significant overlap between these programs which “can create unnecessary work and waste administrative resources, resulting in inefficiency.” The GAO identified several food assistance programs that provide the same or comparable benefits to the same or similar population groups—and yet each program is managed separately:
(more…)

redcord_header

Detail from Pamela Alderman’s “The Scarlet Cord”

Those of you who are regular readers here at the Acton PowerBlog are very familiar with Elise Graveline Hilton’s extensive research and work on the subject of human trafficking, both here on the blog and also through her recently published monograph, A Vulnerable World. (For those of you who don’t have a copy, you can pick up a paperback version at the Acton Bookshop; a Kindle version is available as well.) As Elise was doing the hard work of writing her book, Pamela Alderman was exploring the world of human trafficking through her artistic talents, producing an installation called “The Scarlet Cord.” Her powerful work was created for ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went on to be displayed at the 2015 Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. It is currently on display at the Acton Institute’s Prince-Broekhuizen Gallery.

In conjuction with Acton’s exhibition of “The Scarlet Cord,” we hosted an evening event featuring talks from both Hilton and Alderman. If you weren’t able to join us for the event, we encourage you to take the time to watch the video of the event, and to share it with your family and friends. Learn to look for the telltale signs of trafficking in your day to day life, and join the effort to stamp out this inhuman practice.

wolf-in-sheepOver at GreenBiz last week, reporter Keith Larson profiled Andrew Behar, chief executive officer of shareholder activist group As You Sow. In the article, Behar attempts to rebrand AYS activities as “advocacy investment.”

 For some capital market watchers, the term “activist investor” may bring to mind corporate raiders such as Carl Icahn or Bill Ackman.

That’s why Andrew Behar, CEO of the nonprofit As You Sow, prefers to call social and environmental activist investors something a little more aspirational: “advocacy investors.”

In the absence of large-scale government regulation to force the issue of sustainability with corporate executives, some investors have taken it upon themselves to try to force companies to change. One way these shareholders are advocating change is through filing shareholder proposals or resolutions.

Sure, whatever. To-may-to, to-mah-to and all that. So, it seems, these activists…errrr…advocacy investors at As You Sow are working in cahoots with yet another group of advocacy investors, Arjuna Capital. Puffing its activities as “Enlightened Engagement in the Capital Markets,” Arjuna celebrates its partnership with AYS that introduced resolutions that would force Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corporation to return capital to shareholders rather than invest it in fossil fuels, which, you know, is kind of both companies’ core business. (more…)

Constitutional InterpretationA few days ago I mentioned Michael Stokes Paulsen’s crash course on how to interpret the Constitution. Paulsen outlined five techniques of constitutional interpretation that courts and commentators employ: (1) arguments from the straightforward, natural, original linguistic meaning of the text; (2) arguments from the structure, logic, and relationships created by the document as a whole; (3) arguments from history, original intention, or purposes behind an enacted text; (4) arguments from precedent; and (5) arguments from policy.

Today, Paulsen has another article that addresses whose job it is to interpret “Constitutional law.” As he says, the role is not the exclusive domain of the courts, or even of government officials. Faithful interpretation is the duty and responsibility of faithful citizens.
(more…)

locust effectRule of law is not something we hear much about, nor do we really want to. It’s kind of … dull. Tedious. Yawn-inducing.

Unless, of course, you live somewhere where there is no rule of law.

Every year, 5 million people are chased from their homes. Some lose their homes due to violence; others lose their homes simply because they cannot prove they own it. Someone bigger, stronger, more powerful, more wealthy comes in and takes it. And the victims have no redress. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 21, 2015
By

3 Things ‘The Profit’ Teaches Us About The Beauty Of Business
Joseph Sunde, The Federalist

Business is not just about money. It’s about people, incentives, and ethics, as CNBC’s ‘The Profit’ portrays.

Do religious leaders really focus on homosexuality and abortion more than poverty? Not exactly
Scott Clement, Washington Post

A breakdown of the data by religious groups shows that poverty dominates discussion even at churches with strong stances on abortion and homosexuality.

The Ann Coulter Critique of American Christianity
Ross Douthat, New York Times

[H]ere I think you can take the personal venom out of Coulter’s argument, reframe it as a call to action, and find a possibly-important point: Namely, that the extraordinary overseas work done by Christian (and especially evangelical, it must be said) missionaries, and the extraordinary fundraising done on their behalf at home, might be a model for a renewal of domestic mission work as well.

Newly Passed Human Trafficking Bill Only a Start to What US Must Do to Combat Trafficking
Olivia Enos, The Daily Signal

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. If signed by the president, the bill would create a domestic fund for victims of child sex trafficking from fines levied against traffickers. Fines collected from traffickers will bolster local law enforcement training and capabilities, among other capacity building measures.

LemonisMarcus2I’ve written before on how television can be a powerful tool for illuminating the deeper significance of daily work and the beauties of basic trade and enterprise. Shows like Dirty Jobs, Shark Tank, Undercover Boss, and Restaurant Impossible have used the medium to this end, and today at The Federalist, I review a new contender in the mix.

CNBC’s The Profit is arguably the best reality show currently on television. Starring Marcus Lemonis, a Lebanese-born American entrepreneur and investor, each episode highlights an ailing businesses in desperate need of his cash, care, and wisdom.

By the end, we get a remarkable view into the types of struggle, pain, glory, and redemption that occur across countless businesses every single day.

The show bucks a host of false stereotypes about business, three of which I highlight in my piece. But one of these myths is perhaps more popular and pernicious than all: that business and is necessarily driven by greed and selfishness.

On the contrary, I argue, selfishness kills and service prospers: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
By

acton-commentary-blogimage“Indifference to the moral dimension distorts the study of human action in economics,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary, “so too does it deform the discipline that reaches behind that action to the human mind: psychology.”

Built on a sound anthropological foundation and guided by an equally sound morality that is clear on the proper goals of human life, the empirical findings and practical techniques of psychology can foster the flourishing of both persons and communities. Unfortunately, as Theodore Dalrymple argues in his most recent book Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality, contemporary psychology has long been not only hostile to traditional morality but also indifferent to and dismissive of the larger context of Western culture within which it arose. As a result contemporary psychology, according to Dalrymple, “is not a key to self-understanding but a cultural barrier to such understanding as we can achieve.”

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

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
By

FREE-STUFF-Several years ago economist Bryan Caplan provided the most succinct and helpful statement about how we should think about free trade: “We’d be better off if other countries gave us stuff for free. Isn’t ‘really cheap’ the next-best thing?”

As with any simplification, critics could find many reasons to grumble about what that leaves unstated (e.g., trade leads to offshoring of jobs). But it highlights an important point about why free trade matters. Free trade is about as close to a “free stuff” economy as you can get in the real world.

A primary effect of free trade, as Tim Fernholz says, is that when companies hire or set up factories abroad to take advantage of cheap labor elsewhere, Americans’ real income goes up because a lot of the stuff they’re buying is cheaper.
(more…)