Category: General

Blog author: dpahman
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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This morning the online publication Ethika Politika, the journal of the Center for Morality in Public Life, published my response to a previous article by Thomas Storck on natural law and political engagement. In his article, Storck contents that though the natural law exists as a rationally accessible, universal standard of justice, due to the disordered passions of our fallen condition political engagement on the basis of natural law is all but fruitless. Instead, he recommends a renewed emphasis on evangelism, emphasizing that the change of heart that comes through conversion is a far more effective way to effect social change and, in his view, necessary before any political change will realistically happen. In my article today, I respond,

While I am sensitive to Storck’s insistence that evangelism deserves renewed zeal for the sake of moral progress in society, I feel his opposition of evangelism rather than political action (or, more accurately, evangelism then political action) is ultimately harmful. In particular, there would seem to be no vocation for the Christian as citizen or civil servant today, no vital service that he/she has to offer to the kingdom of God now in his/her civic capacity before such a widespread evangelization has taken place.

I focus my response to Storck mainly on the relationship between the natural law and the positive law of the state, but the above quote contains something that I would like to pursue a little further. (more…)

Blog author: aknot
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg is featured in The American Spectator today with an article titled, “The Book That Changed Reality.” The piece lauds Catholic philosopher, journalist and theologian Michael Novak’s groundbreaking 1982 book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Called his magnum opus, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism synthesized a moral defense of capitalism with existing cultural and political arguments. Gregg notes this and comments on the book’s timely publication and lasting influence:
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In addition to internal logical inconsistencies which raise serious concerns of long term economic sustainability regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), recently analyzed by John MacDhubhain, Robert Pear reports in the New York Times over the weekend how confusion over certain ambiguities in the law (ironically over the meaning of the word “affordable”) would end up hurting some of the people it is precisely designed to help: working class families.

Pear writes,

The new health care law is known as the Affordable Care Act. But Democrats in Congress and advocates for low-income people say coverage may be unaffordable for millions of Americans because of a cramped reading of the law by the administration and by the Internal Revenue Service in particular.

Under rules proposed by the service, some working-class families would be unable to afford family coverage offered by their employers, and yet they would not qualify for subsidies provided by the law.

Read more . . .

Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
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I have written on several recent occasions about the role of incentives in education, both for teachers and for students (see here, here, and here). Yesterday, David Burkus, editor of LDRLB, wrote about a recent study by Harvard University economic researchers on the role of incentives in teacher performance. Interestingly, they found that incentives (such as bonus pay) are far more effective if given up front with the caution that they will need to be returned if the teacher’s performance is not up to par. When teachers regarded the bonuses as already their property, they fought far more effectively to protect them.

Burkus writes,

A total of 150 teachers were randomized into several groups, including a control group, a traditional pay-for-performance group, and another group given a $4,000 bonus up front and told it would be reduced in relation to their students’ performance. The results were as impressive as they were surprising. On average, the students taught by the upfront bonus group outperformed students with similar backgrounds by up to 10 percentage points.

One possible explanation for this effect is “loss aversion.” Simply put, we’re more motivated to protect assets that we already have than to attempt to gain more assets. Once we are given an object or sum of money, we begin to build psychological connections to it, picturing the ways we’ll enjoy owning it or remembering fondly the ways we’ve used it. Perhaps what was missing from the incentives equation was the subtle push provided by the thought of loss.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
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Jail a new church-state option for bishops?
Terry Mattingly

“I could see myself going to jail possibly at some point over the next 15 years, if God spares me, if I speak out,” the 61-year-old bishop told STV News.

The Market Is an Ecosystem
Joy Pullmann, Values & Capitalism

Farming, like a free market, is an ecosystem. No action a businessman takes is without consequences. My uncle, for one, knows crop farmers suffer when dairy farmers suffer, because both depend financially on exchanging their goods (crop farmers get money, dairy farmers get feed for their cows, which eventually becomes money).

Is This Really the Worst Economic Recovery Since the Depression?
Catherine Rampell, New York Times

Economists often assert that we are in the worst recovery since the Great Depression. Are we? Not technically, but it’s still unusually bad.

Casinos as the Bleak New Senior Citizen Center
Amy Ziettlow, The Atlantic

Are we turning a blind eye to a government-sponsored movement that creates false community, drains money, and undermines dignity for those most vulnerable among us?

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 13, 2012
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Obamacare Mandate Harms the Poor: A Case Study of Catholic Charities
Melanie Wilcox and Luciana Milano, Heritage Foundation

In order to be exempt from fines, Catholic Charities of D.C. would only be able to employ and serve Catholics. That stands in stark contrast with the organization’s mission.

The Images of Progressive Citizenship
Ted McAllister, Library of Law and Liberty

Progressives operate with a very modern almost Rousseauian anthropology in which they assume humans to be naturally good but corrupted by society. Understanding their anthropology and how Progressives conceive of the relationship among individuals, society, and government are essential to understanding both their objectives and their strategy.

Does The President Really Make A Big Difference In The Economy?
Dan Flaherty, CatholicVote

How realistic is it to think the policy differences between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are really going to drastically affect all this one way or the other?

Does Wisdom Bring Happiness (or Vice Versa)?
Robert Wright, The Atlantic

What’s correlated with well-being, say Nisbett, Igor Grossman, and three other authors, isn’t reasoning ability in the abstract but rather “wise reasoning”–reasoning that is “pragmatic,” helping us “navigate important challenges in social life.”

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, August 10, 2012
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Private Debt Is Crippling the Economy
Anthony Randazzo, Reason

There won’t be a recovery until credit card and household debt levels come down.

For the Love of Country: Why We Should Tax Olympic Medalists
Alexis Hamilton, Values & Capitalism

While the Olympics have injected much excitement into the dwindling days of our summers, many media outlets have given significant coverage to what some might see as the most unexciting aspect of these international games: taxes.

Top Ten Books on Faith & Work
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Last week we recommended ten books for people beginning to explore economics. Economics needs context, however. Today I’d like to recommend ten books on integrating faith, work, and culture.

Poverty and Politics
Peter Wehner, Commentary

As the election nears — it is now less than 100 days away — the issue of poverty in America will hopefully play a somewhat more central role.

Last week, I commented on Grand Rapids Public Schools’ new attendance policy and Michigan’s tenure reform bill. To summarize, while applauding GR Public’s new policy as effectively incentivizing students to show up to class and take their studies more seriously, I was skeptical about MI’s new bill which ties teacher evaluations to student performance. In their article “Can Teacher Evaluation Improve Teaching” in the most recent issue of EducationNext, Eric S. Taylor and John H. Tyler share the results of their study of the unique teacher evaluation system of Cincinnati Public Schools. (more…)

People do not love markets,” says Pascal Boyer of the International Cognition & Culture Institute, “there is a lot of evidence for that.” Sadly, Boyer is right and I suspect he’s right about the cause too: People do not like markets because people seem not to understand much about market economics.

We don’t fully understand this antipathy, Boyer notes, because there hasn’t been much research on folk-economics, a study of “what makes people’s economic modules tick.” But I think Boyer has identified one of the key reasons why people tend to prefer government interventions to market-driven solutions:

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 9, 2012
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Libby A. Nelson at Inside Higher Education reports on the latest trend in clergy training:

Dual degrees for seminary students aren’t entirely new. For decades, some seminaries and their nearby or affiliated colleges have graduated students with masters’ degrees in both divinity and social work. The combination of a master’s degree in divinity with a master’s in business administration is newer, but growing, says Dan Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, an accrediting body.

In the past five years, programs that combine master’s degrees in divinity with business credentials have sprung up, Aleshire says. He sees two reasons: leadership studies have become more common as an academic field, and Christian ministry has expanded beyond the church into nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurship — start-up businesses that try to serve a larger good.

Read more . . .