Category: General

pope-rainThere has been no document by a world leader that has received more attention this year than Laudato Si.

Three months have passed since Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, and yet the media coverage and political commentary on it has hardly waned. Here on the Acton PowerBlog, Bruce Edward Walker has been compiling a daily list of links related to news and commentary on the encyclical. To date he has 62 posts with hundreds of links.

As the Associated Press notes, “The document had a rollout unlike any other.”

The encyclical was introduced at the Vatican by a secular climate scientist and a top Orthodox Christian leader, with simultaneous news conferences by Catholic leaders in many countries and the chiming of church bells for emphasis. Francis underscored the importance of the document by sending it to the world’s bishops with a handwritten note.

Yet despite all the hype and effort, few Catholics in the United States are even aware of the encyclical, much less know the Pope’s views on the environment:

PowerBlog readers will have noticed a strong, and from my point of view justified, negative reaction here to Elise Hilton’s Aug. 11 post titled, “The Lost Girls of Romania: A Nation of Sex Trafficking.” Commenters referred to the post as offensive and poorly researched. As editor with overall responsibility for the PowerBlog, I want to address the many comments we’ve received that take issue with Hilton’s characterization of Romania and Romanian women.

Before we go any further, I want to note that anyone who writes regularly for publication will invariably make errors of fact and error of analysis. In a long career in journalism and other editorial work, I certainly have made my share. The responsibility of the writer and editor is to be accountable to readers and correct the record when needed.

This post missed the mark. It should not have relied on a single Al Jazeera article to make assertions that in Romania “women and girls have virtually no rights.” What’s more, the sweeping generalization that in Romania if women “are not hidden, they are trafficked” is patently untrue. I’ve been to Bucharest, a beautiful European capital, and this statement does not describe what I saw there. I’ve also been blessed to get to know many Romanian families who worship at my Greek Orthodox parish and have found them to be unfailingly kind, hospitable and productive. Romania is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian culture, but has significant populations of Roman Catholics and Protestants and small numbers of Muslims. As for the Church, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel has been unequivocal in his condemnation of human trafficking. The following is from a statement he made in 2009: (more…)

Whitney Ball

Whitney Ball

The freedom movement lost a champion today. Whitney Ball, president and CEO of DonorsTrust, died last night after a long and courageous fight with cancer. Whitney was a dear friend of more than two decades, and one with whom I shared both a passion for liberty and the Christian faith. She was indefatigable in the pursuit of both passions. DonorsTrust, which she has shepherded for most of its history, has been and will continue to be a bulwark of liberty long into the future. It will be a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman whose shortened life belies her outsized contribution to making the world a better place. Whitney will be greatly missed. Requiescat in pace.

Back in April I wrote about the Baltimore riots and noted the long term impact riots have historically had on cities. At the time I wrote, “Within a few weeks the riots in Baltimore will subside and the country’s attention will shift to other problems. But the economic damage caused by the violence and looting will affect the community for decades to come.”

Most of us who weren’t directly affected have indeed moved on to other problems. But in the wake of the devastation, it is worth taking the time to consider the causes and consequences of rioting and whether they can be predicted or prevented in the future. As Jon Russo of Areavibes writes,

The misinformation that often accompanies rioting only makes these questions more difficult to answer. The rapid spread of information through social media can make prosecution and identification of offending parties easier, but can also intensify public debate and distort the truth. With rioting making more and more news across the United States, we decided to find some hard data on the subject. In this infographic, you’ll find the crimes that characterize typical riots, the impact on lives and property, and the boiling point that turned each incident into a national headline.

His infographic provides a useful overview of the riots in American in the past two decades:


Jean Valjean in “Ep. 4: The Economy of Order”

“Seeking justice isn’t a matter of designing the right programs or delivery systems… Seeking order means acting in accord with a true vision of our brothers and sisters.” –Evan Koons

American society and public discourse seem to be stuck in a state of feverish discord, rightly concerned with severe acts and systems of injustice, even as we continue to dig deeper cultural divides over everything from healthcare to sexual ethics, race relations to religious liberty, immigration to foreign policy.

As Evan Koons asks in Episode 4 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles: “How are we to operate with so much hurt, so much dysfunction in the world? What hope is there for justice?”

When we consider the Economy of Order, it can be intimidating to even think about enacting change. Government, policy, and the big bureaucratic food chain that supports it all don’t necessarily tend  toward inspiring optimism, patience, and trust. (more…)

overpopulation1In 1865, W. Stanley Jevons predicted that with coal reserves of 90 billion tons, England would run out within 100 years. Today, the country has between three trillion and 23 trillion ton, enough to last Britain for centuries.

In 1914, the Bureau of Mines fretted that with a total future production limit of 5.7 billion barrels, the U.S. only had about a ten-year supply of oil. Today, a hundred years later, we’re estimated to have 36 billion barrels left in the ground.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich predicted that because of an inability to produce enough food, hundreds of millions of people would starve in the 1970s. Instead, the population has doubled—from 3.5 to 7 billion—and the number of famine victims from 1970-2015 combined is less than in the 1960s.

Each time experts predicted a decline in natural resources would be detrimental to population growth. And each time history proved the experts wrong.

Yet despite this history, modern scientists are still more pessimistic about population growth than the general public, according to a pair of 2014 Pew Research Center surveys.

cure_for_consumerismThe latest monograph from Acton, The Cure for Consumerism by Rev. Gregory Jensen,will be available for free starting this Wednesday, June 10, and ending Friday, the 12th, at midnight. This is the second monograph in the Orthodox Christian Social Thought Series.

Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, there has been a rapid growth of human flourishing, but critics of the market economy have argued that these improvements have led to consumerism and rampant materialism. This monograph will explore the possible cures for consumerism. Can society actively choose to consume less? Does our economic system need a complete overhaul? Rev. Jensen will explore these possibilities, synthesizing insights from the spiritual tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church with modern social science. This monograph will offer practical solutions to consumerism, putting both faith and economic freedom to work for the common good. (more…)

Members of  the “Acton Club” of West Catholic High School

Members of the “Acton Club” of West Catholic High School

Culture has either an overly optimistic view of youth culture, or an overly dour and depressing one. However, neither view is entirely true, nor are such disparate opinions very helpful.  The unavoidable truth is this: younger generations will have to bear increasingly more difficult levels of financial, and societal responsibility in the coming years. To put it mildly their future will not be an easy walk in the park.

However, in my experiences at Acton, I am witnessing a renaissance, a flowering of maturity in which young men and women are not waiting for someone to offer them a free hand-out, but rather are seeking a better version and a more compelling vision for their future. Certainly the root of this renaissance has been occurring over the past ten years with college students at Acton University, but the flowering I am talking about is happening amongst high school students.

In the spring of 2014, a group of students from West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids made an appointment to tour our offices and to learn more about Acton’s work. After the tour, I expected the students to simply say, “thank you” and then depart, but the leader of this intrepid band said, “Mr. Cook, we have a core group that are serious about our Christian faith, and we want to be successful, ethical and virtuous business leaders. We want to learn how we can live our faith as Christian business leaders in our world today.” Then he said something really amazing.

“Do you think it’s possible for us to start an ‘Acton Club’ in our high school?’


thatcherForty years ago today, to the surprise of almost everyone, Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservative Party. She was the first—and to date the only—woman to be elected leader of a major political party in the United Kingdom. Four years later she became the first—and again the only—female prime minister of Britain.

Thatcher served as PM for nearly a decade, during which time she became, along with Ronald Reagan, one of the West’s greatest champions of free enterprise, anti-communism, and individual liberty.

Here are nine things you should know about the former British Prime Minister.

Food-Network1For most of human history, the average person spent much of their day trying to produce enough food to survive. Even in the mid-1800s 90 percent of Americans were farmers.

But that was soon to change, and by the 1870 census farmers dropped to a minority at 47.7 percent of all employed persons.

In that same year the average person spent 62 percent of their waking hours— 70 hours a week—working. But over the next 150 years the number of working hours dropped considerably. Because of productivity gains and innovation, the average person in Western countries now works fewer than 40 hours a week.

screen shot 2014-12-14 at 1.02.23 pm

That means we now have an extra 1,800 minutes more free time every week than did our nineteenth century ancestors. So how are we spending those non-working hours?