Category: General

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Jesuit journal In All Things devoted its Winter 2005-06 issue to the question of poverty in the United States. The issue brings together a number of perspectives from Jesuits, both liberal and conservative. The Rev. James V. Schall, S. J., contributed an article titled “On Weath and Poverty,” one which the journal editors have described thematically as “choosing not to be poor.”

Here is Schall’s article in its entirety:

The most famous book in economics is The “Wealth” of Nations, not The “Poverty” of Nations. Yet, Christ says, the “poor” will always be with us. Not a few still are. No one needs to learn to be poor. It is easy. Do not make, develop, invent, or concoct anything productive. Someone had to invent the wheel, plumbing, tooth brushes, hybrid corn, and computers The question of poverty implies “how not to be poor.” Unless we talk about the latter question, it is useless to talk about the former one. If we do not know how to produce wealth or if we choose not to learn or effect those things that actually work to produce it, we will be poor. We will likewise make or keep others poor. Not all “good” ideas work for the good. (more…)

Blog author: kjayabalan
posted by on Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Writing in Canada’s Macleans magazine, Mark Steyn modifies a famous saying of our namesake:

As Lord Acton almost said, all power corrupts but Liberal power corrupts very liberally.

Since it’s a Canadian publication, the capital “L” refers to the party that was booted out of power in the recent elections.

The whole piece is an interesting look at the legacy of the British empire and can be read here.

Amy Welborn’s blog has a post on the January 21 conference Acton held in Rome and links to Jennifer Roback Morse’s recent Acton Commentary article.

Welborn’s post and comments can be read here. Roback Morse also wrote about the conference here.

Much of the debate is about whether there is one “European Social Model”. After all, European nations are still distinct enough to be affected by varying religious, cultural, and socio-economic factors. Yes, there may indeed be “Anglo-Saxon”, “Nordic”, “Continental” and “Latin” versions of the social model, but what they tend to have in common is this: high taxes, high regulations especially concerning labor markets, and radically secular populations.

This is certainly the model pushed by the European Union and its most influential member states upon new member states, many of which are post-Communist and therefore quite suspicious of state power and control. And no matter what you call the model, it tends to result in lower economic growth and shrinking populations – which will eventually spell the end of the welfare state because such as system depends on increasing tax receipts from a growing work force.

Of course there are and will always be exceptions. The British Ambassador to the Holy See attended the Acton conference and noted the UK and Ireland as such; Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Ponitifical Council for the Family, agreed but added that the trend still exists and needs to be addressed directly.

The problem is a lack of economic and religious freedom. High taxes and regulations are signs of increasing state control over the economcy, and less economic freedom means less economic opportunity. (See Richard Rahn’s recent Washington Times column for the evidence.) On the religious front, Christians are marginalized in European public life, church attendance is declining, and the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” is ignored. In the end, radical secularization and statism go hand-in-hand, as Mark Steyn argued in the Italian daily Il Foglio.

So how much more debate is needed? Isn’t reform the next necessary step? What Europe needs most right now are courageous leaders who are willing to risk unpopularity and even political defeat in order to promote a free and virtuous continent. They will have to remember the old saying that no good deed goes unpunished, but it’s a punishment that will eventually prove to be beneficial for Europe.

From the Washington Post, a snippet from Hugo Chavez, discussing Bolivia’s recently elected president, Evo Morales:

“We have to create, one, two, three Bolivias in Latin America, in the Caribbean,” [Chavez] said echoing a quotation from Argentine hero Ernesto Che Guevara. “Only aiming for power can we transform the world.”

Why do I get the idea Chavez didn’t do so well in his history classes?

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Check out this challenging essay on Spiked by Frank Furedi, “The curious rise of anti-religious hysteria.” His main point is that while religious belief is misplaced, it shouldn’t be replaced with another sort of secular fundamentalism.

It turns out Furedi himself is just a believer in rationalism: “Superstition and prejudice should continually be countered by rational argument. But the vitriolic invective hurled at Christian believers today is symptomatic of the passions normally associated with a fanatical Inquisitor.” Of course “superstition” happens to be anything that is believed not on the basis of some sort of rational foundationalism.

On secular reactions to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Passion of the Christ: “As a secular humanist who is instinctively uncomfortable with zealot-like moralism, I am suspicious of the motives behind these doctrinaire denunciations of films with a religious message.”

On expressions of faith: “Until recently, cultural expressions of religious faith were simply considered old-fashioned and gauche. But over the past decade, scorn has turned into bigotry and hatred.”

On Intelligent Design: “Many see only the danger of superstition in Intelligent Design, describing it as a new form of Creationism on the march. They overlook the remarkable concession that Intelligent Design makes to the authority of science.”

On Jim Wallis: “When it comes to banality, Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It beats his competitors to the post.”

Perhaps the right reaction toward religious belief, according to Furedi, is not hatred but rather self-assured patronizing.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Monday, January 16, 2006

The U.N. and many of its attendant NGOs have often supported dubious and even Orwellian interpretations of human rights (pushing, for example, for coercive population control measures in the name of reproductive “freedom”). A new group, the International Solidarity and Human Rights Institute aims to promote an agenda more in keeping with a Christian concept of rights. One of its goals is to influence the U.N. positively on this issue. Godspeed.

For those of you who enjoy listening to podcasts, Acton has updated its own podcast to be more iTunes friendly. We’ve added an iTunes graphic to the feed, updated our description tags, and categorized it on the iTunes music store. For those interested in checking it out, please follow this link to the iTunes Music Store (iTunes is required).

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Here are the Top 5 Acton Institute PowerBlog posts of 2005 (by number of visits):

  1. The Ethics of ‘Price Gouging’, Monday, August 29, 2005

  2. Benedict XVI on Markets and Morality, Thursday, May 5, 2005

  3. Bono: Aid or Trade?, Thursday, June 2, 2005

  4. Puggles, Malt-a-Poos, and Labradoodles, Oh My!, Tuesday, August 23, 2005

  5. Museum of Plastic Cadavers, Friday, May 20, 2005

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Saturday, December 31, 2005

From all of us here at the PowerBlog, please accept our best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2006!

Care to make any predictions for the new year? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Thursday, December 8, 2005
“Oh Holiday tree, oh Holiday tree…”

“Happy Holidays” has become the accepted greeting in December. Even the White House has embraced “Happy Holidays” over the more traditional and Christian “Merry Christmas.” Understandably, many people are upset about the use of the word “holiday” rather than “Christmas.” I wanted to take a quick look at some traditions surrounding the December holidays, sorting out which situations should be using “Christmas” and which should be using “Holiday.”

First off, saying “Happy Holidays” is a very easy, quick, inoffensive and non-oppressive way to express greetings and love to a variety of people. December 25 is a day special to both Christians and Jews, who celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, respectively. December 26-January 1 is Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, both non-Christian celebrations. Therefore, it would make sense to use “Happy Holidays” to express festive greetings to those who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. It is definately quicker than saying “Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa.” When the White House greeting card says, “With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness 2005,” we can assume that rather than waging war against a traditional Christmas, the White House is simply acknowledging that different people are celebrating different holidays.

The same goes for store window signs, or for clerks working at stores (and other people that Rev. Jerry Falwell and the “religious [far] right” are angry at). Why shouldn’t they be able to acknowledge people who aren’t Christians by expressing joy about other cultural or religious celebrations?

Problems exist – I agree; but I think that these problems are more along the lines of cultural ignorance (I’ll quickly admit that I don’t know much about either Hanukkah or Kwanzaa). In the same way that we should be open to other cultural celebrations and holidays, we should be able to keep our own straight. The Christmas Tree (according to the much disputed Wikipedia) was appropriated by Christian missionaries from the German celebration of the Winter Solstice – the Yule. It remains a traditional (although not neccessarily Christian) element of Christmas – which is a Christian celebration; therefore we call the tree a Christmas tree. Logically, if the Christmas tree is adopted by other religions or cultures as elements of their celebrations (which the Christians did) then it would make sense for them to call it what they wanted – the “Kwanzaa tree” or the “Hanukkah tree.”

So – just to summarize – I have no problem with “happy holidays,” so long as you are referring to the holidays, and not to a specific holiday. If you’re talking about only Kwanzaa, say “Happy Kwanza.” Hanukkah? “Happy Hanukkah!” Its a “Menorah,” not a Holiday candle. Its a Christmas tree, not a Holiday tree.