Category: General

veterans-daySpend a day with your local military recruiter, and you’ll be encouraged by the number of people who go out of their way to say how much they support our troops and how much they appreciate the service of these young veterans. Then watch as the recruiters casually ask when they’ll be bringing their son or daughter to the recruiting station to learn more about serving their country.

Their spines stiffen, they smile blankly, and a coldness comes over them. If they are quick-witted, they will find a joking way to dismiss the question. More often, though, they will simply blurt out that there is no way they’d let their own child enlist. They’ll support someone else’s children being soldiers, but not their own.

Dealing with hostile parents is just one of the myriad reasons recruiting duty is considered second only to combat on the list of most stressful jobs in the military. Most of the Marines I have known, though, would rather do a tour fighting insurgents in Iraq than a tour recruiting teenagers in America.
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Russell_KirkAs noted earlier this week on the PowerBlog, 2013 marks the 60th publication anniversary of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. This monumental work’s significance derives from its encapsulation of several centuries of conservative thought – fragments, to borrow liberally from T.S. Eliot, shored against the ruins of mid-20th century liberalism, relativism and other brickbats of modernity.

The importance of Kirk’s book (as well the remainder of his extensive body of work) should be obvious to those who share the Acton Institute’s Core Principles and possess a passing familiarity with Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles. For those new to principles espoused by Dr. Kirk, however, a brief and thoroughly incomplete overview of the latter is in order.

The Ten Conservative Principles began as Six Canons listed in the 1953 edition of The Conservative Mind. Kirk subsequently revised what began as his doctoral dissertation to add the poet and essayist T.S. Eliot to the list of preeminent Western conservative thinkers initially begun with Irish statesman Edmund Burke and originally ending with George Santayana. Similarly, he revised the Six Canons to what became a conservative’s Decalogue.

A conflation of Kirk’s principles for the sake of space limitations might read: There exists an enduring moral order; humankind is imperfectable; property rights are imperative for any free society; community is preferable to collectivism; personal passions abjured for prudence; political power restrained; and, finally, the need for reconciling permanence and change. This conflation hardly does justice to Kirk’s thought, but should serve as an entrée for those subsequently seeking the full 10-course intellectual banquet replete with Master Chef, sommelier and full orchestra. (more…)

Sid Meir's CivilizationMy wife despises Sid Meier. She’s never met him, nor would she even recognize his name. But she knows someone is responsible for creating the source of my addiction.

For over twenty years I’ve spent (or wasted, as my wife would say) countless hours playing Civilization, Meier’s award-winning strategy game. Every time I play the game I enter an almost trance-like state of complete immersion. According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what I’m experiencing in that moment is known as “flow.” Csíkszentmihályi describes the mental state of flow as,

being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, there are ten factors that accompany the experience of flow:
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
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GOTW.102913.Libertarian-320x414There was something wrong with Zhang’s dog. The Chinese man had bought the Pomeranian on a business trip, but after he brought it home he found the animal to be wild and difficult to train. The dog would bite his master, make strange noises, and had a tail that mysteriously continued to grow. And the smell. Even after giving the mutt a daily bath Zhang couldn’t bear the strong stink.

When he could take it no longer, Zhang sought help from his local zoo in Tunkou. They informed him that the dog was not a dog at all — it was an Arctic fox, a protected rare species.

The Tea Party movement is like Zhang’s dog. For the four years, pundits and politicians have been trying to identify this political animal. Almost everyone thinks they have political movement on their hands, but as many folks recognized years ago the Tea Party “movement” is not really a movement at all. It’s a new title for something old the Republicans have ignored for a long time. A number of astute observers recognized that fact soon after the “Tea Party” movement was born.

“Having looked at the swelling of the Tea Party,” Paul Gottfried wrote in The American Conservative in 2010, “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a uniform movement. There are at least three different movements trying to give the impression of being one.” And as Matthew Continetti of The Weekly Standard said that same year:
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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
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Prohibition-Era-Cocktail-RecipesIn 1919 Congress passed the Volstead Act enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting, for almost all purposes, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. There are two erroneous things everybody has learned from Prohibition, says Anthony Esolen: “First, it is wrong to try to legislate morality. Second, you cannot do it, for Prohibition failed.”

The real lessons of Prohibition, though, go unheeded:
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Brand-Storyteller“The plural of anecdote is not data”, claimed toxicologist Frank Kotsonis, in an attempt to correct sloppy thinking. While Kotsonis has provided a useful aphorism, it can obscure the equally interesting fact that the singular of data is anecdote.

Consider, for example, the following two stories. The first is the shortest work of fiction ever written by Ernest Hemingway:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

This powerful story is a marvel of economy. In a mere six words and three punctuation marks, Hemingway is able to convey a sense of tragic loss without ever introducing a single character.

Compare to a story with a similar theme from an anonymous author:

Infant mortality rate: 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Although it lacks the emotional impact, this too is a model of brevity. Seven words, two numbers, a comma, colon, and two periods are used to express — albeit rather dryly — an important fact about the human condition. Indeed, if Hemingway’s story was not fictional, it could be considered a singular instance of the second story; a particular example of a more general phenomenon.

At this point, you may object to the use of the term “story” in reference to a statistic. You may be tempted to repeat back to me Kotsonis’ mantra: “The plural of anecdote is not data.” But if the singular of data is anecdote and anecdotes are a form of story, then why can’t data be a collection of tales, sifted down and pressed together, into a narrative?Transforming data back into narrative form can provide the oft-lamented missing link between the data and analysis produced by conservative think tanks and the storytelling that appeals to the general public.

Lack of storytelling ability is one of the reoccurring themes of modern conservatism. At National Review Online, Lee Habeeb is the most recent writer to point out that conservatives need to become better at getting our point across by the use of stories:
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P.J. O'Rourke

P.J. O’Rourke

Best-selling author and leading political satirist P.J. O’Rourke will be featured at the Acton Institute’s 23rd Annual Dinner on Oct. 24 as the keynote speaker. Tickets for this event are going fast as there is just over one week remaining until this event. You do not want to miss out on this evening filled with humor, wit and engaging dialogue in what promises to be an evening remembered for a long time. Known as a hard-bitten, cigar-smoking conservative, O’Rourke bashes all political persuasions. “Money and power to government,” says O’Rourke, “is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

With more than 1 million words of trenchant journalism under his byline and more citations in The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations than any living writer, P. J. O’Rourke has established himself as America’s premier political satirist. Both TIME and the Wall Street Journal have labeled O’Rourke as “the funniest writer in America.” Covering current events, O’Rourke combines the skill and discipline of an investigative reporter with a comedian’s sense of the absurd and the stupid. O’Rourke’s best-selling books include Parliament of Whores, Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich, The CEO of the Sofa, Peace Kills and On the Wealth of Nations.

The event will be taking place from at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Mich. Previous keynote speakers have included Eric Metaxas and John O’Sullivan. Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of Acton, will also be giving special remarks during the evening.

Individual tickets are $150 and table sponsorships are also available for $3,000 and $5,000. Be sure to register now by visiting www.acton.org/dinner. For more information, please contact Teresa Bailey at tbailey@acton.org or call 616.454.3080. We hope to see you there!

On Sept. 18, the Acton Institute held its annual dinner and lecture in downtown Pittsburgh at the Duquesne Club.

J. Christopher Donahue, president and chief executive officer of Federated Investors, Inc., emceed the event and Lisa Slayton, president of Serving Leaders and The Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, gave the invocation for the evening.  Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of Acton, gave the keynote lecture for the evening:  “Religious Liberty and Economic Liberty:  Twin Guarantees for Human Freedom.”

Rev. Sirico started the evening by talking about why property rights are important to liberty.  Property allows us to put ourselves into the creation of things.  Humans have the capacity to create wealth.  The human being transcends creation as we are able to create.  “Without the right of property, civilization begins to crumble,” Rev. Sirico said. “Culture begins to crumble.”  He gave a textbook example of this—the former Soviet Union. Both religion and property rights were confiscated–and you can see what happened. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, October 7, 2013
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scaliaIn Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1937 short story, “The Devil and Daniel Webster“, the famous American statesman not only gets Jabez Stone, a farmer who sold his soul to the devil, out of the contract, he gets Mr. Scratch to agree “never to bother Jabez Stone nor his heirs or assigns nor any other New Hampshire man till doomsday!”

Webster was likely an excellent lawyer, but if I was in a lawsuit with the devil today I think I’d rather have Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia on my side. In a recent interview with New York magazine, the faithful Catholic jurist admits — to the surprise of the interviewer — that he believes the devil is real:
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Every now and then I run across a series of studies that makes me wonder if white progressives are among the most narcissistic cohort of professionals in America. There seems to be this pervasive myth that simply being around white people adds value to the flourishing of blacks in America. This myth often extends to interpreting data along axes that are nothing less than insane. For example, it is often (mis)believed that when black students are in schools that are predominantly black they do not perform as well because of the “segregation.” Though it has been demonstrated that there is no such correlation, many white progressives seem to believe that the presence of white people is somehow a cosmic advantage for blacks. That is, blacks need to be around white people so that their lives will improve.

Much of this narcissistic progressivism comes from a pervasive misunderstanding of what drove the Civil Rights movement. Many progressives seem to believe that in the 1950s and 1960s blacks were fighting to be around white people in order to experience “the good life.” This is far from the truth. In fact, the Civil Rights movement was a fight for equal treatment under the same laws without deference given to whites. It was a fight to end discrimination so that all Americans, regardless of race, could exercise the exact same freedoms. Perhaps this may explain why there seems to be a sense of surprise and shock in a Huffington Post blog entry explaining that blacks who were attending segregated schools have better overall health and well-being than those in integrated settings:
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