Category: General

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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111013_teaparty_occupy_ap_328You may — alright, so you definitely will — need a tab with Google open to be able to look up all the big words he uses in his penetrating prose, but George Gilder is a masterful writer and inspiring advocate for entrepreneurial activity. I’ve been reading through the revised-and-updated edition of Wealth and Poverty this past week and I am astounded all over again at the unrelenting, unapologetic way he articulates the case for free enterprise, limited government, and private-sector solutions.

For Gilder, the entrepreneur is not an unfortunate by-product of a flawed economic system, but the thankless hero of, and catalyst for, the innovation, creativity, and prosperity the rest of us benefit from. Even a vocal proponent for free enterprise like myself — someone who has made a living the past few years writing and speaking about the moral and theological case for economic liberty — can only sit back in silence and marvel at the stirring way Mr. Gilder paints his verbal portraits of the men and women who create something where nothing once stood.
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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, October 3, 2013
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Sally C. Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute, is interviewed at National Review regarding her new book, The Cure For Obamacare. NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Pipes about what Obamacare means for the US, and whether or not there is a better way.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What’s the best answer to the question of what Obamacare means for the life of America?

SALLY C. PIPES: Obamacare has just celebrated its three-and-a-half-year anniversary. This is the federal government’s largest entitlement program since President Johnson’s Great Society, which he introduced in 1965. That was the year that Medicare and Medicaid were born.

Obamacare puts more control of our health-care system in the hands of the federal government. It is a program that moves this country on a clear path to European socialism.

It is my belief that Obamacare will not lead to universal coverage or bend the cost curve down. In fact, the CBO has recently announced that 33 million Americans will still be uninsured in 2023 and the cost from this year to 2022 will be $1.8 trillion, double the original estimate and the president’s goal of $900 billion over ten years.

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presuppositions-e1361408206416-350x235It is truly amazing to encounter Protestants who believe that their views on theology and justice are objective and neutral — as if the Fall did not happen. In a recent discussion about the sacraments, a leader of an international ministry said to me, “If hermeneutics involves being taught to believe a certain theology, then it is not true hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is absolutely neutral.”

After reading his comment I wondered, what possible world is he talking about where neutrality actually happens? One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God in the Garden of Eden was a human race whose thinking is now impaired. In the book Wisdom and Wonder, Abraham Kuyper makes the point that while we have not ceased to be rational creatures, because of sin we have “lost the gift of grasping the true context, the proper coherence, [and] the systematic integration of all things.” Because of this aspect of the human condition it seems best, as much as possible, to put one’s presuppositions on the table since there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Disclosure builds trust and solidarity.

One of the stumbling blocks in Protestant evangelicalism is that leaders teach their constituents that their respective positions are “the Biblical” positions when, if fact, they are formed and concluded by particular approaches and perspectives. The implication is that each tribe says that they are “truly” Biblical and those who disagree with them are not Biblical. The fact is every tradition believes that their distinctives are “biblical.” Ignoring our presuppositions often leads to useless quarreling and much wasted time (2 Tim 2; Titus 3). This does not mean that all things are up for debate and difference, but it does challenge us to pay closer attention to those things that the Scriptures are more clear about.
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