Category: Individual Liberty

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Thursday, March 14, 2013

(March is Women’s History Month. Acton will be highlighting a number of women who have contributed significantly to the issue of liberty during this month.)

In today’s era of texting, Facebooking and emails, one wonders how comfortable our nation’s second First Lady would have felt about these forms of communication. Abigail Smith Adams, while not a “woman of letters” (she had little formal education), left behind letters that tell us much about her, her marriage and her desire to be part of a nation of liberty.

In 1775, the Massachusetts Colony General Court appointed Adams (and other young women) to question their peers as to their loyalty to the crown or their new nation. Her husband, John, told her she was now a “politician and now elected into an important office, that of judges of Tory ladies, which will give you, naturally, an influence with your sex.”

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

It was noted that Abigail enjoyed conversations about politics, especially as her husband’s own political career grew. One thing she might have in common with today’s politicians and their spouses is that she did not enjoy the so-called “fishbowl” that comes with this type of career. Clearly, the role of women at this time in the public realm was limited, which Abigail accepted, but perhaps chafed against. She wrote in one correspondence, “Let each planet shine in their own orbit, God and nature designed it so. If man is Lord, woman is Lordess — that is what I contend for, and if a woman does not hold the Reigns of Government, I see no reason for her not judging how they are conducted.”

She believed that women not only could be educated, but must be, in this new nation, for it was in education that virtue was learned. As her husband and his peers drafted the country’s Constitution, she wrote, “our new constitution may be distinguished for learning and Virtue…. If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen, and philosophers, we should have learned women.”

This formidable First Lady may have penned some of the most striking words of the young nation she helped found:

[R]emember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

Blog author: abradley
posted by on Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In their book, American Society: How It Really Works, authors Erik Wright and Joel Rogers make the case that when we talk about social injustice most Americans think in terms of some sort of material inequality that might be considered unfair and possibly remedied if our social institutions were different. There are multiple problems with this reduction but it is fair to say that this is a dominant conceptual framework in our culture today. As a result, one of the ways to frame the “fairness” divide is to discuss it in terms of “fair play” versus “fair shares.”

Wright and Rogers explain that in the “fair play” vision, inequalities are fair so long as the rules by which people compete for valued goods are fair. In this framework there are winners and losers. When losers lose, as long as the rules are the same, the first assumption cannot be that they lost because of injustice and that, all things being equal, had they been equal from the start they would not have lost. That is, so long as there is equal opportunity, inequality of results is not a moral problem.
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Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) recently appeared on the MSNBC round-table discussion show Morning Joe and was asked by Senior Political Analyst Mark Halperin to give his personal take on the reality of a world where Obamacare is the law of the land. Here’s what transpired:

JOHNSON: Well, it’s obviously the law of the land right now. Obviously, I’m concerned about it. I think that the cost estimate of Obamacare is grossly understated. I think far more Americans are going to lose their employer-sponsored health care, because there are incentives for employers who drop the coverage and make their employees eligible for the huge subsidies in the exchanges. I think it will explode our deficit. It’s going to lead to rationing. It will lead to rationing and lower-quality care. Here is the basic economic problem.

MIKE BARNICLE: Why will it lead to rationing?

JOHNSON: Because it dramatically increases the demand for healthcare. Thirty million Americans getting their health care, kind of through a Medicaid-like process, while it dramatically reduces the supply. That’s an economic disaster. When you’re taking $716 billion out of payments, primarily to the providers, you’re reducing supply and increasing demand. That doesn’t lower the cost curve. That increases the cost curve.

HALPERIN: Well, again, just to stay on health care. Lots of big issues, I now you want to talk about. But, do you aspire to live in a country where we have universal healthcare? Is that a goal of yours?

Johnson: What I aspire is to health care being governed more by free-market competitive systems. I always use the example of one area of healthcare that generally isn’t covered by a third-party payer or by government. It’s eyeglasses. The free market has actually produced businesses that you can walk off the street, get eyeglasses in an hour, two for the price of one. Take a look at the quality of laser surgery – it’s gone up and up and the price has gone down the last ten years. The free market system is a marvel, in terms of guaranteeing the lowest possible price and cost, and the highest possible quality of customer service. But we’re moving in the opposite direction: government control.

HALPERIN: Yes or no, do you aspire for the United States to have universal healthcare coverage?

I wonder why no one asked Mark Halperin if he aspires to be a real journalist one day?

For the life of me, I cannot figure out if Halperin’s line of questioning has an agenda or not? He’s way too smooth and subtle to betray his own political leanings!
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Writing in The Guardian, historian Peter Frankopan looks at how the Byzantine Empire, which had “the distinction of being one of the very few realms to survive for more than a millennium,” might offer clues to a way out of the current Eurozone crisis.

Frankopan, author of The First Crusade: The Call from the East, notes that “like the EU, the Byzantine empire was a multilingual, multi-ethnic commonwealth that spread across different climates and varied local economies, ranging from bustling cities to market towns, from thriving ports to small rural settlements. Not only that, but it also had a single currency – one, furthermore, that did not fluctuate in value for centuries.”

More on the history of the Byzantine gold coin known as the solidus or, in Greek the nomisma, here.

Frankopan asserts that government in Byzantium was “lean, simple and efficient.”

If Eurocrats could learn from the structure of the empire, then so too could they benefit from looking at how it dealt with a chronic recession, brought on by the same deadly combination that has crippled western economies today. In the 1070s, government revenues collapsed, while expenditure continued to rise on essential services (such as the military); these were made worse by a chronic liquidity crisis. So bad did the situation become that the doors of the treasury were flung open: there was no point locking them, wrote one contemporary, because there was nothing there to steal. (more…)

ammoNeed to justify a new sin tax or raise an existing one? Adam J. Hoffer,William F. Shughart II, and Michael D. Thomas recently explained in U.S. News and World Report how it’s done:

Claim that consuming some good or engaging in some activity contributes to ill health or harms the environment. Argue that “experts” know what choices consumers should make better than the consumers themselves know. Finally, don’t forget to select items for taxation that only a minority of the population buys, but that you and the majority of voters do not. Be a paternalist.

That seems to be the steps lawmakers are taking in recent proposals to add firearms and ammunition to the list of  items worthy of a “sin tax.”
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(March is Women’s History Month. Acton will be highlighting a number of women who have contributed significantly to the issue of liberty during this month.)

“This strange child” is how Hildegard was once described. Born in 1098, she was known to have visions, but kept them private for many years. Her family sent her at the age of 8 for religious education. It was not until the age of 42 that she realized the full extent of her visions and her understanding of religious texts. She sought the advice of St. Bernard and then Pope Eugenius so that her visions would never be seen as anything outside of or against Church teaching.

iconographer: Richard Cannuli

iconographer: Richard Cannuli

Hildegard’s work was some of the most prolific and wide-ranging in church history. She wrote music, plays, theology, and natural history. She also left behind massive correspondence. Besides writing to those who sought prayerful and private advice, she took to task men like Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, the archbishop of Main, and King Henry II of England. She was known to openly approach medical subjects (such as menstruation) and political and religious topics even some men would not discuss.

The 12th century was one of schisms and religious turmoil, and Hildegard was openly critical of those who spoke against the Church. However, the practice of burning heretics, popular at this time, was one Hildegard eschewed: “Do not kill them, for they are God’s image.”

Some feminist theologians of the 20th century have found Hildegard to be “feminist-friendly“, focusing on her apparent disobedience of a local bishop when relocating her convent. However, nothing suggests that Hildegard was anything but a true scholar, a student of science, reason and theology, who sought to work within the Church’s tradition of intellectual endeavor. In 2012, now-Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared Hildegard of Bingen a “Doctor of the Church”: a title given to certain saints known for their work that leads to new understandings of the Catholic Church’s Faith. It is in the realm of faith, reason, and intellect that Hildegard can be regarded a woman of liberty.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8 since 1911, when Clara Zetkin, a member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed the yearly event that has its roots in women’s suffrage. It is good to remember that women have not always enjoyed the right to vote, the right to work in a safe environment and to earn a fair wage. Indeed, many women around the world still do not enjoy such basic rights. However, the website promoting International Women’s Day is disheartening, in that it chooses to focus on controversial – and sometimes tasteless – issues.

iwd_squareFor instance, one video highlights women staging a “topless demonstration” (with full frontal nudity) in Istanbul to protest domestic violence; it’s unclear how nudity helps protect women against violence. Another video uses a supermodel in a piece entitled “Smart is the New Sexy”. However, the video equates attractiveness with doing something about global poverty. Sexy is still sexy, and smart is about being hip and beautiful, apparently. Finally, there is a video from the Council of Commonwealth Societies called ‘Women as Agents of Change”.  This video highlights the importance of a girl’s health, education, opportunities and financial freedom. (more…)

mass_design_groupIn a recent issue of Metropolis Magazine, Thomas de Monchaux tells the story of an amazing lesson about innovation that Americans can learn from Rwandans. This is no surprise, but readers will learn that burdensome government regulations stifle innovation and undermine human flourishing.

De Monchaux recounts the story of Michael Murphy, executive director and co-founder of the Boston-based MASS Design Group, and Alan Ricks, MASS cofounder and COO, attempting to take what they learned from building health care facilitates and hospitals in Rwanda, with minimal building code regulations, and bringing that knowledge to building in the United States. He describes the project in Butaro, Rwanda this way:
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Fourteen members of Congress—including 13 women—sent a letter to the House leadership today asking that conscience rights be included in the upcoming budget bill. They mentioned specific violations of conscience rights, including the HHS Mandate:

“This attack on religious freedom demands immediate congressional action,” the 14 lawmakers wrote. “Nothing short of a full exemption for both nonprofit and for-profit entities will satisfy the demands of the Constitution and common sense.”

The continuing resolution that House appropriators released Monday would not cut off funding for the Affordable Care Act, despite years of conservative pressure to defund the healthcare law. But Tuesday’s letter, led by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), indicates that fights over the health law could still roil the funding debate.

[. . .]

“Congress cannot ignore the relentless assault on the First Amendment right to religious freedom, and must act before the (Affordable Care Act) provisions are fully enacted in August of this year,” the lawmakers wrote to GOP leaders and appropriators in both chambers.

(Via: Public Catholic)

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal that every conservative should read—and heed:

Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.

The irony is maddening. America’s poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.

Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.

Some say the solution for conservatives is either to redouble the attacks on big government per se, or give up and try to build a better welfare state. Neither path is correct. Raging against government debt and tax rates that most Americans don’t pay gets conservatives nowhere, and it will always be an exercise in futility to compete with liberals on government spending and transfers.

Instead, the answer is to make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies.

Read more . . .