Category: Acton Commentary

acton-commentary-blogimageA new film set on Mars taps into the quintessential American story, says Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary.

After the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel to outer space in 1961, Nikita Khrushchev remarked, “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.” The Soviets would not pass up an opportunity to deride religion, even though, reportedly, Gagarin himself was a Russian Orthodox Christian.

Americans, by contrast, are the sort of people who need to go to Mars to find God. Director Ridley Scott’s critically-acclaimedblockbuster film The Martian, based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, taps into this idea, the quintessential American theme of the great frontier and the aspiration for the transcendent that it signifies.

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

acton-commentary-blogimage“With the news this week that Angus Deaton of Princeton University had won the economics Nobel,” says Victor V. Claar in this week’s Acton Commentary, “the question of how best to help the poor in developing nations takes on a greater level of urgency.”

When it comes to understanding the specifics of global poverty, Deaton’s achievements are especially impressive. By pioneering household surveys in poor countries, he helped us gain a more accurate perspective on living standards and the particular consumption realities of the global poor. These data provided researchers with detailed micro-level data, so that economists working in economic development no longer needed to make broad and sweeping generalizations regarding the poor in a given nation based on less personal macro-level data. Indeed, Deaton helped us better understand the specific spending patterns of the poor, making it possible to see what economic life looks like through the eyes of a poor person trying be the best steward she can, given her currently limited resources.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here. You can also find a discussion of this topic between Deaton and Russ Roberts on a recent episode of EconTalk.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimageIt may be too early to tell, says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary, but has Francis has learned something about economics from his American critics?

Can we dare to say that Francis has learned something about economics from his American critics? Maybe so. Compare what he said in Latin America about the “idolatry of money” and the “dung of the devil” to his speech in Congress about the “creation and distribution of wealth” and the “spirit of enterprise.” On his return flight from Paraguay, the pope had said he needed to study the American criticisms of his economic statements and admitted he was “allergic to economics.” He knows that we live in an individualistic age but shouldn’t be nostalgic or romantic about the past. Whatever happened in the pope’s thinking about economics, it was a step in the right direction.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here. , but has Francis has learned something about economics from his American critics?

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimageWhy aren’t church leaders who are so quick to condemn capitalism, asks Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky in this week’s Acton Commentary, decrying Big Government bureaucracy?

The warnings of recent papal teachings on questions of social justice rarely – if ever – identify the dangers of a highly bureaucratized central government. Apparently most of the sinful and corrosive “love for money” comes from private sector capitalists, not government public sector agencies. Certainly corporate capitalistic greed can and does have serious economic consequences. But is it reasonable to ignore the negative economic consequences of Big Government, its centralized control and bureaucratic demands?

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, September 9, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimagePopulism makes for strange bedfellows, says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Take Pope Francis and Donald Trump, for instance. They are certainly populists of very different sorts, but there is one issue that unites them – both are harsh critics of economic globalization.”

Francis does explicitly and by name what Trump does implicitly and in practice. In fact, they seem to derive much of their popularity precisely because they attack free markets as an enemy of the people. Their worlds will collide later this month when Pope Francis visits America’s centers of political and financial power – K Street and Wall Street will not be treated nicely, we can be sure.

But really, how can the pope and the Donald see eye-to-eye on anything? Isn’t Francis the compassionate voice of concern for the world’s marginalized and excluded, while Trump is the aggressive, often insulting face of strident nationalism? Trump’s answer to America’s illegal immigration problem (i.e., building a wall across the border with Mexico, deporting illegals and denying those born in the US birthright citizenship) couldn’t be more opposed to Francis’s. Trump would strengthen the US military and has said that he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness. There couldn’t be a starker contrast between Christian humility and American bravado.

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, September 2, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“The world is not a parsimonious place, in spite of the dogmas of the ecologists,” says James V. Schall in this week’s Acton Commentary.

Our most unsettling economic problems are actually not economic but moral—moral ones that cannot be simply passed on from generation to generation. They need to be chosen and internalized by each person in each generation at the risk of deflecting material goods from their proper purposes.

Work likewise is not exclusively for its own sake. Rather work, while being an expression of human dignity and concrete accomplishment, aims at a product, aims at the material wellbeing in which something more than work can happen. The basis of culture, as Josef Pieper wrote in a famous thesis, is not only work but also leisure that lies beyond work. We work in order to have leisure, not the other way around.

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

On September 8-10 we’ll be having a free ebook giveaway of Schall’s latest book. More information on the giveaway will be coming soon, so check back here on the PowerBlog to learn more.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“Pope Francis is famous for his strident denunciations of a “throwaway culture” that ruthlessly discards human beings not considered useful in an economy that ‘kills’,” says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary. But has the pope accurately identified the real cause of the problem?

My concerns were only heightened by the secret videos of Planned Parenthood officials blithely discussing buying and selling the body parts of aborted babies. Part of me is nervously awaiting the pope to denounce capitalism for this social evil as well. In fact, there are U.S. federal laws prohibiting profit-making in this type of commerce and Planned Parenthood itself denies making any money from it. (Even abortionists recognize the evil of profits!) But another part of me questions whether it’s the quest for profits that drives the abortion industry to not only perform but brazenly justify its barbaric practices.

Let me restate the problem this way: Assuming Planned Parenthood is telling the truth that it makes no profit in the buying and selling of fetal body parts, would that make the “crushing” and “crunching” of babies acceptable? Would it be ok to abort babies out of “humanitarian” or “compassionate” rather than “self-interested” motives? Are government-subsidized abortions somehow less gruesome than private-sector ones?

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