Blog author: jcarter
Friday, May 6, 2016

Should Courts Get to Define Religion?
Michael O’Loughlin, The Atlantic

The Massachusetts Supreme Court will decide whether a local shrine should be tax-exempt—a decision that could have broad implications for faith organizations in America.

The Best (and Worst) Cities for School Choice
Evan Smith, Opportunity Lives

School choice works. But it takes more than good intentions to succeed. Talent, leadership, infrastructure, culture and money are all key variables in the equation. The product is an environment that fosters educational opportunity.

How Cheap Energy Helps American Families
The American Interest

Oil and gas prices have fallen quite a bit since the summer of 2014—Brent crude has dropped 66 percent over the past 21 months while the Henry Hub natural gas benchmark price fell 62 percent over the same period.

The Myth That Regulation Can Stop Financial Crises
Mollie McNeill, The Daily Signal

Regulation doesn’t prevent financial crises—a fact that the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act conveniently ignored.

cronyIt’s never easy becoming a billionaire, but the path to achieving a 10-figure level of wealth is smoother when you have the government as a business partner.

Crony capitalism is a general term for the range of activities in which particular individuals or businesses in a market economy receive government-granted privileges over their customers or competitors. Certain industries (like casinos and real estate) and some nations (Russia, the Philippines) are more prone to cronyism than others. So if you want to become get ultra-rich it helps to be an business and country (e.g., an energy company in Mexico) where the government will you gain an advantage in the market.

The Economist has put together an interesting interactive infographic showing where crony capitalist billionaires live around the world. As they explain:

Yesterday was both Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) and the day that Donald Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican party. I reflected on the confluence of these two phenomena in a short essay on what Mr. Trump might learn from Emperor Palpatine. It is not well-known, perhaps, but Palpatine was instrumental in creating the so-called Book of Sith, which includes a treatise by him on “Absolute Power.” I draw a couple of lessons for Mr. Trump from Darth Sidious’ work, but there’s another element that I want to highlight briefly as well.

At one point Sidious reflects on his rise to prominence, his control of the Galactic Senate, and eventual consolidation of power under the Empire. “Fear is the spark that drove my march to power. Even now it fuels the engine of my Empire,” he writes. “The weak must be trained to fear the consequences of betrayal. They must dread that their neighbor’s loyalty is greater than their own. The anxious will whip themselves into hysterical nationalism without further prompting” (emphasis added).

13174032_848140198624580_2869438526186601064_nHere Sidious provides a key insight into the nature of despotic tyranny and it’s corruption of human relationships. Such tyranny isolates individuals from one another, making sure that they no longer relate to anyone except as mediated by the despot or his machinery. Or as Tocqueville put it, “A despot readily pardons the governed for not loving him, provided that they do not love each other.” Love having been excluded, fear is left alone to reign.

creative-service-house-flow3“The fruit of our labor is fellowship. It’s community. It’s relationship.”

Global trade has suddenly emerged as a hot conversation in the current election cycle, with candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders leading the charge toward severe protectionism, while the others quietly shrug and nod along accordingly.

Voters of all ideological stripes are responding with fervor, calling for more trade barriers and increased manipulation of prices and wages, hoping to insulate the American economy from our global neighbors and “keep what’s ours.”

Such stances quickly fall apart when one looks to basic economic theory. But well before and beyond its threats to material wellbeing, protectionism inhibits and prohibits something far more important: widespread creative service and the transcendent beauty of free and open exchange. (more…)

national-day-of-prayer-2Today is the National Day of Prayer, an annual day of observance celebrated by Americans of various faiths. Here are five facts you should know about the day when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

1. The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

2. The National Observance in Washington, DC is coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical nonprofit group. The NDP Task Force was founded in 1979 by Mrs. Vonette Bright, co-founder of the evangelical Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ International. Since 1991, Shirley Dobson, whose husband is James Dobson, has been the chairwoman.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 5, 2016

Finding God in a Financial Crisis
The Atlantic

Though I hadn’t even been inside of a church in 30 years, I wound up going one day, sobbing to the reverend after service. I was lost, and I knew it.

A Look Into Washington’s Crony Dealmaking Process
Bryan Riley, The Daily Signal

The legislative campaign behind this mandate highlights what the debate over free trade vs. protectionism is all about.

Finding Hope in the Fight Against Human Trafficking
Raleigh Sadler, TGC

man trafficking, or the exploitation of vulnerabilities for commercial gain, can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. This type of injustice is nothing new. As a matter of fact, human trafficking can be seen throughout ancient literature, even leaving its mark on the Hebrew Scriptures.

Almost Four in Ten Families with Children Say They Are Struggling Financially
Anna Sutherland, Family Studies

38 percent of American families with children under 18 reported struggling to get by financially in 2014.

man-stealing-breadFive year ago, Roman Ostriakov, a homeless Ukrainian living in Italy, attempted to steal cheese and sausages worth $4.50 (€4.07). Before he could leave the supermarket, though, Ostriakov was caught and convicted of theft. He was ordered to pay a fine of $115 (€100) and spend six months in jail.

But Italy’s supreme court has overturned the conviction, writing:

The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the merchandise theft took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of need.

“For the judges, the right to survival has prevailed over the right to property,” says Massimo Gramellini, an editor of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. He adds that in America this would be “blasphemy.”

Gramellini is partially right. While the court was right to show mercy to Ostriakov, they’ve essentially set of precedent for legalized theft. While it may seem compassionate for the judges to allow those in need to have access to other people’s property, the result is likely to lead to greater harm of the poor.