Category: General

RealClearReligion’s Nicholas G. Hahn III recently talked to Acton President Fr. Robert Sirico about Obama, Marx, and Jane Fonda:

RCR: Why didn’t Jane Fonda and others in your generation follow you to the Right?

Robert Sirico: There are a lot of them that are not Leftist anymore. I know a lot of people in my generation who were at those things and are much more conservative today — not quite philosophically, but certainly wouldn’t identify with the Left. Now, why are some of them still stuck? When you’re in that ethos and the whole culture moves and if you didn’t have a fixed point, you move with it. When you’re formed in your ideas, it’s a whole hermeneutic. It’s a whole way that you approach the world. And when, for instance, you approach the world with a zero-sum presumption, I think it’s very explanatory. Marx gives you a view of the world that is plausible. It’s not completely absurd to think that the person who owns the means of production is wealthy because of another’s poverty. It’s plausible. It sounds right. It’s only when you understand the broader context, then it becomes more complex. Traditional, classical, free market ideas are far more complex — and counterintuitive.

Read more . . .

Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg is featured on the July 29 episode of Liberty Law Talk. The conversation, which focuses on the too-often forgotten free-market economics of Wilhelm Röpke, can be downloaded online at the Library of Law and Liberty website. Gregg has written extensively on Röpke in the past and the conversation meets expectations as enlightening and thought-provoking. Be sure to check it out.

In yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press (and appearing at mlive.com on Monday), Monica Scott reports on the tenure reform bill signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last year and set to take effect in the 2013-2014 school year:

Last year, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a tenure reform bill that completely overhauled teacher performance evaluations, tying teachers’ grades to student achievement. But teachers and union leaders locally and across the state have said they think it’s unfair to be held accountable for the performance of students who don’t show up to class.

In response, the Grand Rapids school board policy committee discussed enacting an attendance policy comparable to other districts in the county. Scott notes that, according to Ron Gorman, executive director of high schools for Grand Rapids schools, “school districts around Kent County include a set number of absences students cannot exceed, but Grand Rapids does not include a specific number, rather the district has procedures for addressing absences.” Instead, the “committee discussed a policy that states students can only have a total of 12 absences per semester and if students are 15 or more minutes tardy for class, it would be viewed as an absence.”

As a graduate of a Kent county district that had a comparable attendance policy, I was a little surprised to learn that GR Public did not. This is certainly an improvement. Indeed, with their new policy, it sounds like it will be a large step in a good direction: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
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Milton Friedman: An Economics of Love
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review Online

The libertarianism of Rand (and she hated the word “libertarian”) was based on an economics of resentment of the “moochers” and “loafers,” the sort of thing that leads one to call a book The Virtue of Selfishness. Friedman’s libertarianism was based on an economics of love: for real human beings leading real human lives with real human needs and real human challenges.

Burke’s Wise Counsel on Religious Liberty and Freedom
William F. Byrne, The Imaginative Conservative

One thing which made religion a key to virtue was the humility which Christianity promoted. Most of our political and social problems, Burke believed, stemmed ultimately from vanity, the chief of the vices.

Wilhelm Roepke and the Limits of Markets
Scott Galupo, The American Conservative

For Roepke, the market economy depended for its proper function on moral goods outside of itself: the bourgeois virtues, for example, inculcated by families, churches, and communities; and public-spirited elites capable of adjudicating disputes with an eye toward the long run.

How Welfare’s Work Requirements Make a Difference in Lives
Collette Caprara, The Foundry

On July 12, the Obama Administration issued a directive to gut welfare reform of its work requirements. But those who work closely with individuals in need understand the critical principles of personal responsibility and self-reliance.

In addition to my post yesterday and other education related posts on the Powerblog (here, here, here, here, and here), I highly recommend this analysis of the higher ed bubble from educationviews.org if anyone is interested in learning more.

I would emphasize that this is not simply an economic problem but a moral one. We cannot in good conscience continue to promote higher education to our youth while its quality continues to diminish and its price continues to rise. To do so is to fail to fulfill our moral duty to leave an inheritance to the next generation from the good that previous generations have passed on to us. The bar needs to be raised as a matter of human dignity. On the whole, people will rise (or fall) to the level of the expectations that we have for them. The level of expectations placed upon a person sends a message about their perceived ability and value. In addition, needless spending needs to be cut, and our government and banks need to stop handing out loans like candy to pursue degrees that will not realistically secure the income needed to pay them back. This is a present moral failing that is leading us to a future economic collapse.

From the article:

As George Will describes it, the bubble is what happens “when parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality.” The point at which parents cease to be willing to pay those rising prices is when the bubble bursts. When that happens, the financial assumptions on which American higher education has been based for many decades will come crashing down.

There are, however, two highly unpredictable elements in the current situation. One is the willingness of the Obama administration to sustain the bubble by encouraging more and more students to attend college and by using student loans to support this expansion. The other is the bubble-deflating power of online education.

Read more . . .

Mayor Mike Bloomberg is beginning to take his self-appointed role as Nanny-in-Chief of New York a bit too literally:

Mayor Bloomberg is pushing hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breast-feed.

Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation.

Under the city Health Department’s voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded tchotchkes like lanyards and mugs, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

[...]

Under Latch On NYC, new mothers who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals will keep infant formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications. With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead.

How many mothers decide to breastfeed their children because someone hid the baby formula? I suspect it’s around the same number as husbands who stop eating sweets because their wife hides the Oreos. Someone should tell Mayor Bloomberg (and my wife) that those sorts of change-the-behavior tactics aren’t all that effective.

Blog author: Mindy Hirst
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
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“The darkening of sin obstructs the acquisition not of the knowledge of the details but knowledge in its more exalted and nobler sense.” (Abraham Kuyper, Wisdom & Wonder Pg. 56)

Each of us is detail-oriented in our own way. Some remember dates and numbers with amazing accuracy. Others remember relational information from conversations they had two weeks ago. Still others have a knack for remembering trivia of all sorts.

(more…)

The lowering of education quality has been noted in the recent past on the PowerBlog (here and here). Last Saturday, Casey Harper noted at educationviews.org that even students are complaining about the declining rigor of American education.

Harper notes that, according to a recent survey,

More than half of eighth-grade history and civics students say their work is “often or always too easy,” according to the report. Twelfth-grade students sang the same tune, with 56 and 55 percent, respectively, saying their civics and history work is “often” or “always” too easy. (more…)

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tackles the topic of religious liberty with his most recent column, “Defining Religious Liberty Down.” In it, Douthat highlights the public nature of the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the “free exercise of religion”:

It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair. Most religious communities conceive of themselves as peoples or families, and the requirements of most faiths extend well beyond attendance at a sabbath service — encompassing charity and activism, education and missionary efforts, and other “exercises” that any guarantee of religious freedom must protect.

Many would say that the religious liberty squabbles of today–the HHS mandate debate and last week’s Chick-fil-A fracas, for example–reflect a contemporary confusion about what is actually protected by the Bill of Rights’ “free exercise of religion.” Instead, Douthat posits that the conflict is a result of a present tension between religious values and the modern idea of freedom. This, Douthat argues, is really at the heart of the religious liberty debate.

The question is not whether “the free exercise of religion” allows the government to mandate contraception purchase or regulate businesses according to their values. The question is whether certain religious beliefs of today run so contradictory to the public zeitgeist that, like 15th century Aztec sacrifice rituals, they violate the common good and cannot merit public protection. Those who answer the latter question with a “yes” should quit the emaciated definitions of religious liberty and move on with the debate:

It may seem strange that anyone could look around the pornography-saturated, fertility-challenged, family-breakdown-plagued West and see a society menaced by a repressive puritanism. But it’s clear that this perspective is widely and sincerely held.

It would be refreshing, though, if it were expressed honestly, without the “of course we respect religious freedom” facade.

If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.

There, didn’t that feel better? Now we can get on with the fight.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, July 30, 2012
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Building a Culture of Religious Freedom
Charles J. Chaput, Public Discourse

If we want a culture of religious freedom, we need to begin it here, today, now. We live it by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to God with passion and joy, confidence and courage; and by holding nothing back. God will take care of the rest.

A Different Kind of Aid in Africa
Austin Doctor, Values & Capitalism

Responding to allegations that Africa is submitting to a new era of colonialism, economist and bestselling author Dambisa Moyo describes a different scene. In a recent article in the New York Times, Moyo enthusiastically observes that the African economy is reaching for new horizons—and China is helping it get there.

American Decline and the Virtue of Industriousness
Joseph Sunde, Remnant Culture

Murray sees industriousness as one of America’s “founding virtues,” the others of which include honesty, marriage and religiosity. Yet while these others are important, Murray argues that industriousness was the most defining.

The Parable of the Ox
John Kay, Financial Times

In 1906, the great statistician Francis Galton observed a competition to guess the weight of an ox at a country fair. Eight hundred people entered. Galton, being the kind of man he was, ran statistical tests on the numbers. He discovered that the average guess (1,197lb) was extremely close to the actual weight (1,198lb) of the ox. This story was told by James Surowiecki, in his entertaining book The Wisdom of Crowds. Not many people know the events that followed.