Category: Politics

Bridge-building-w-cranesThe state of Michigan is in the midst of something of an infrastructure crisis. We’re consistently ranked as among the states with the worst roads in the nation, something of an embarrassment for what used to be the automotive capital of the US. This infrastructure challenge is also no doubt part of a legacy of a state with one of the more troubled economies in the nation over the previous decade. (In spite of all this, Michigan remains a beautiful state with wonderful people, something Thrillist noted in recently ranking the Mitten state as the best state in America!)

To President Obama’s quip about infrastructure to business leaders, “You didn’t build that,” one might be tempted to retort that, in Michigan at least, that’s also increasingly true for the government. The roads aren’t being maintained in anything like a responsible fashion.

The voters of Michigan recently defeated Proposal 1, which was put forth by the state’s politicians as the only feasible solution. The voters actually saw it for what it was: a game of brinkmanship and blame-shifting. The defeat of Prop 1 put the onus back on the elected politicians to actually do their job and undertake the tough work of governing.

There have been a number of other ideas floated after the end of Prop 1, and part of that overhaul of our state’s approach to infrastructure investment and maintenance includes debate over so-called “prevailing” wage laws that require “union-scale wages and benefits on public construction contracts.”
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The U.S. Supreme Court decided today that it is unconstitutional for a state to declare that marriage is only between one man and one woman. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires states to redefine marriage, but the Court decided that the Due Process Clause prohibits defining marriage as it has been defined for millennia just as it found a right to an abortion in the same Due Process Clause over 40 years ago.

The role of the Court is to rule on the merits of a case based on prior case law and the Constitution. The Court is not to legislate or find ways to make something legal that they personally believe is better for society. When the Court removes an issue from the realm of democracy and imposes its will based on what it perceives as the best public policy, there is a natural resentment that occurs from the people and states opposed to the ruling, particularly when such a ruling has no real basis in constitutional law.

“Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law,” writes Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent. “Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

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Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, reacts to the recent encyclical from an evangelical perspective:

The climate change issue is portrayed by the activists as being a moral issue and they put themselves forward as defenders of the oppressed and the poor around the world.  But, in fact, it is the poor, especially the extreme poor, who are the most arguably in need of increased access to what, at this point, only fossil fuels can provide.

See his full statement in the video below:

Doug Bandow, member of the Advisory Board of the Acton Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, discusses the problem of politics with regard to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical.

In Calling on Government, Laudato Si Misses the Problem of Politics

by Doug Bandow

In his new encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis challenges “every person living on this planet” to adopt a new “ecological spirituality.” But his economic and policy prescriptions are more controversial than his theological convictions. Indeed, his ideas already are being deployed by political advocates. For instance, with the UN pushing a new climate agreement, Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, proclaimed that the encyclical “is going to have a major impact.”

The Pope’s commitment to the poor and our shared world is obvious and appropriate. Yet there is much in his practical arguments to criticize. When he speaks of spiritual matters his vision is clear. When he addresses policy his grasp is less sure. In practice, markets and property rights have much to offer humanity as it seeks to build a better, cleaner world.

Perhaps of even more consequence, the Pontiff ignores the flawed nature of government. He is disappointed with its present failings, but appears to assume that politics, unlike humanity, is perfectible. Thus, he hopes transferring environmental and other crises created by the flawed marketplace to the enlightened political realm will lead to the better world which we all desire.

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Doug Bandow, advisory board member of the Acton Institute, praises the new encyclical for its understanding of man and religion, but criticizes it for its lack of knowledge of economics and politics in an article for The American Spectator.

Despite his commitment to ecological values, the Holy Father acknowledges that “a return to nature cannot be at the expense of freedom and the responsibility of the human being, that is the part of the world tasked with cultivating its ability to protect and develop their potential.” He also rejects “deification of the earth, which would deprive us of the call to collaborate with it and protect its fragility.”

Nevertheless, humanity’s responsibility for the environment is complex and the Pope discusses ecological values in the context of economic development and care for the poor. How to creatively transform but at the same time gently preserve the natural world is not easy. Unfortunately, in its policy prescriptions Laudato Si sounds like it was written by an advocate, largely ignoring countervailing arguments. The resulting factual and philosophical shortcomings undercut the larger and more profound theological discussion.

Read the full article “Praise ‘Be Praised’ for Its Intent, not Execution” at The American Spectator.

 

Alexis_de_tocqueville_croppedWhat is social justice? Is it a vision of a perfectly just society? Is it an ideal set of government policies? Is it a particular theory or practice? Is it a virtue? A religious concept? A social arrangement?

In a lecture at Acton University on his forthcoming book, Social Justice: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Michael Novak sought to answer some these questions with a particular framework around intermediary institutions.

Offering a broad survey of the term’s origins, history, and modern use and application, Novak countered modern misconceptions of social justice (e.g. as another word for equality), and sought to outline a definition that’s (1) connected to the original understanding, (2) ideologically neutral, and (3) applicable current circumstances.

Leaning first on Pope Leo XIII for an original understanding, he proceeded to channel Alexis de Tocqueville, describing social justice in terms of our activity in basic, day-to-day associations. This begins with religion, of course, which “dominates our hearts,” he said, without the support of the state, and in turn, transforms our orientations and imaginations toward citizens, institutions, and law. With this as the basic order of things, social justice begins when the individual rightly understands his relation to God, and proceeds to engage with civilization accordingly. (more…)

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, spoke with Business Spectator about the economic message of the new encyclical:

When you read through the text, you find the free market, and finance in particular, is identified more or less as responsible for many environmental problems, Dr Gregg said.  It’s almost a subterranean theme of the encyclical …In many respects it’s a caricature of market economies.

Read more at “Pope Delivers Strong Message on Climate Change.” from Business Spectator.

Alejandro Chafuen, member of the Board of Directors of the Acton Institute, discusses the theology, science, and political impact of Pope Francis’ environmental statements:

Although the Pope writes and speaks as he is not an expert on bio-technology—allowing for differences of opinion—when he speaks about political economic topics he does it with conviction and certainty. Like other Church documents, this one again cautions that “on many concrete issues the Church has no reason to propose a final word” and that it promotes and respects honest debate among scientists respecting the diversity of opinion. But on economic topics, “Laudato Si” seems one sided. A major guiding document of the Catholic Church, “Gaudium et Spes” (36:7), deplores “certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.”

If the Social Doctrine of the Church is seen as teaching one sided views on solar panels, carbon credits, or climate change, it might put into question the credibility of its other teachings as well.

Read “Pope Francis and the Environment:  Sound Theology, Politicized Science?” at Forbes.com.

Speaking to the New York Times, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute president and co-founder, addresses the potential political fallout from the Pope’s encyclical statements on climate change:

From the moment he steps into that chamber and talks about climate change, it’s going to be taken as a political statement,” said the Rev. Robert Sirico, executive director of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, a policy group that endorses free-market economics. “For the conservatives, it’s going to be very uncomfortable. Republicans are going to have a hard time on the environment.

Read “Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to Catholic Candidates” in the New York Times.

supreme-courtJune is a busy month for the Supreme Court. The Daily Signal has given us a tidy round-up of seven cases to keep an eye on.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert: This is a free speech case. The Good News Community Church in Gilbert, Ariz., uses signage to promote events at the church. The town has codes regarding signage, and the church says they are not fair. For example, the church is allowed to put signs for only 12 hours before their Sunday services. Meanwhile, a real estate agency can post much larger signs for 30 days.

The Supreme Court will decide whether the town’s claim that the ordinance lacks a discriminatory motive is enough to justify its differential treatment of religious signs.

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