Category: Politics

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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Political-Corruption-Bigger-Threat-than-TerrorismPolitical corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. While it isn’t as endemic in the U.S. as it is in some countries (Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan being the most corrupt), the problem still exists. According to the Justice Department, in the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals were convicted for crimes related to corruption and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial, the overwhelming majority of cases having originated in state and local governments.

But measuring corruption based on convictions can be tricky for a variety of reasons, ranging from inadequate data to partisan bias. One alternative measure is to use perceptions, especially of state and local governments. Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston surveyed the news reporters covering state politics in addition to the investigative reporters covering issues related to corruption during the first half of 2014 to gauge their perception of state corruption:

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ferguson_t580The events in Ferguson, MO and the tragic death of Eric Gardner have brought a variety of tensions to the forefront of our thinking and to the streets of many a city. But while the ensuing discussions have ranged from politics and policy to cultural attitudes about this or that, few have noted what the events might signify as it relates to the intersection of faith, work, and vocation.

Over at MISSION:WORK, Vincent Bacote fills this gap, noting how the current response against law enforcement and the criminal justice system is fundamentally a reaction against distortions of human dignity, and thus, “the relationship of human dignity to the opportunity to do work that contributes to one’s flourishing.”

Pointing to the stewardship mandate in Genesis, Bacote reminds us that, despite America’s largely positive legacy, our country has at many times resisted “opportunity for all persons to properly express themselves as image bearers in the world of work,” particularly when it comes to African Americans. “The problems magnified by Ferguson show we have not escaped the reverberations of a society where racial discrimination was part of the structure of society,” writes Bacote, “including ways that such discrimination impeded the path to full flourishing in the world of work for African-Americans.” (more…)

On Tuesday, the Acton Institute, along with our friends from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, welcomed F.H. Buckley, Foundation Professor at George Mason University School of Law and author of The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Goverment in America, for a lecture presentation in the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium. Buckley addressed the topic of his book, describing the increase in presidential that has occurred since the time of the founders, and which has reached its fullest flowering in the Obama Administration. You can watch the video below; if you haven’t listened already, you might be interested in the latest edition of Radio Free Acton which features an interview with Buckley.

F.H. Buckley speaks at the Acton Institute

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, I was privileged to speak with F. H. Buckley, Foundation Professor at George Mason University School of Law and author of a number of books, his latest being The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.

The story of American Government is the story of the rise of presidential power, which has seen its fullest, and – for those who believe in the principles of the Constitution and oppose one-man rule – most unsettling flowering in the presidency of Barack Obama. How did a country that was founded on small-r republican principles go from overthrowing the rule of the King George to essentially creating its own elected monarchy, which George Mason, one of the founding fathers, considered worse than the real thing? Buckley discusses this process and our current political dilemma.

Later this week, we’ll post the video of Buckley’s lecture on the same topic, which he delivered yesterday at the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium at an event co sponsored by Acton and The Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

LBJ’s so-called “war on poverty” kicked off a trajectory of public policy that has shown a remarkable tendency to create more of the same — affirming cycles of dependency, disintegrating relational capital, and over-elevating material tinkering to the detriment of the permanent things.

Yet somehow the prevailing narrative still holds that those same sickly policies are the best we can hope for, and anyone who disagrees is an enemy of the poor. If money shall be transferred from Person X to Person Y and the label on the packaging reads “anti-poverty!”, what else is there to discuss?

In a recent interview with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts assumes the common prejudice (4:11):

Roberts begins by pointing to a series of progressive measures that Scott has opposed in the past, proceeding to ask, quite presumptuously, “How do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower income families and kids?” One can only be concerned for the poor if they subscribe to the very policies that have failed them, apparently. (more…)

The Bible teaches wise welcome, not blanket amnesty. Biblical teaching would give first consideration to foreigners applying to come to America as blessing, and lawfully (there are four million who’ve applied and are waiting). I believe blanket amnesty of many millions more is unwise. Amnesty is unkind to nearly 20 million Americans who are currently looking but cannot find a job. Wisdom and kindness would bring millions of jobs to America before more competition for scarce jobs. Biblical wisdom would protect Americans from open borders and the risks associated with amnesty: illegal entry into the country by violent Islamists, narco gangs and those who knowingly enter with dangerous diseases like Ebola. Our goal is not hostility, but hospitality.

Economist Thomas Sowell puts it this way:

Not only the United States, but the Western world in general, has been discovering the hard way that admitting people with incompatible cultures is an irreversible decision with incalculable consequences. If we do not see that after recent terrorist attacks on the streets of Boston and London, when will we see it? ‘Comprehensive immigration reform’ means doing everything all together in a rush, without time to look before we leap, and basing ourselves on abstract notions about abstract people.

God loves us all and yet nowhere in Scripture do we find support in God’s teaching for blanket amnesty. Rather, we see the respect of boundaries, borders and admonitions to remember and to advance the teachings of Godly wisdom for human and cultural thriving. We see welcome of the lawful immigrant who comes as blessing, such as Ruth and the Good Samaritan. And we see Ezra and Nehemiah leading a nation in the rebuilding of walls for cultural healing and renewal. (more…)

Ukraine-Memorial-Holodomor

Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine

Seventy years ago this November, a new word entered the lexicon which would contextualize and put a name to the mass killings of minority groups that had gone on for centuries: genocide.

The Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the word, Raphael Lemkin, used it for the first time in his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, published in November 1944. Lemkin had been deeply troubled with mass killing and the lack of legal framework for adjudication of its perpetrators from a young age. He found it appalling that in the name of “state sovereignty” a leader was effectively able to kill his own citizens, without punishment under the law.

Lemkin’s coining of the word was followed by a relentless, single-handed effort to lobby diplomats, heads of states, and then the newly formed United Nations to create a law which would make illegal this recently named crime against humanity. Lemkin’s efforts were eventually rewarded when on December 9, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed into law the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

History reveals many “crimes against humanity” which preceded this development in international law. The current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, notes a few of these in her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

And there are still many other largely unknown genocides that deserve our recognition. One of these will be covered in an upcoming Acton Institute art and lecture event on Thursday, November 6: “The Famine Remembered: Lessons from Ukraine’s Holodomor and Soviet Communism.”

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Winner.

In an otherwise excellent post yesterday on how, of all things, politics in our (basically) two-party system actually brings together Americans like nothing else, Joe Carter ends with this addendum:

Addendum: Casting a “protest vote” for third-party candidates is essentially casting a vote for the party you like the least. For example, say you prefer the Democrats to the Republicans but choose to vote for the Green Party candidate. Since the Green candidate will not win, you vote effectively reduces the vote for the Democratic candidate (your second favorite choice) by one. Had you cast the vote that way, it would have offset a vote for the Republican.

On the one hand, I do not disagree that one should not be deluded about the chances of most (there have been exceptions) third party candidates. One must consider that, in fact, a third party vote is also a passive vote for “the party you like least.”

But, on the other hand, there are times where I can see this as more than a protest vote. As I wrote in 2012, third party votes are different than abstaining to vote altogether in that while the latter may at best be a form of protest, a purely negative act, the former is actually a vote for someone/something. Thus: (more…)

united-by-differenceI can choose between 350 channels on my television, 170 stations on my satellite radio, 10,000 books at my local bookstore, and millions of websites on the Internet. But on my ballot I have only two real choices. I can vote for a Democrat or I can vote for a Republican.

In an age when even ice cream comes in 31 flavors, having only two choices in electoral politics seems anachronistic. But the limitation has an ironically beneficial effect. For as divisive as politics can be, nothing else has such power to unite our pluralistic nation.

From magazines to coffee to houses of worship, our consumer-oriented culture provides us with an unlimited number of choices. Chances are that you don’t watch the same TV shows, listen to the same music, or attend the same concerts as your neighbors. While the range of choices can be individually beneficial, it can be socially atomizing. In the 1950s if you lived in Green Bay you rooted for the Packers — just like everyone else in Wisconsin. Now with satellite broadcast, your favorite “football” team is just as likely to be Manchester United.

The expansion of choices has affected almost all major areas of life, except for one. In electoral politics you are forced to choose between the two dominant political parties. (Technically, other parties are listed on a ballot but the choice is still effectively limited to the two parties. See addendum.) Whether you are a proto-Marxist a theocratic Domnionist or a socially liberal libertarian, your choice of parties is limited to the Democrats or the Republicans. The choice may be nothing more than a vote for the lesser of two evils—Beelzebub rather than Lucifer—but making it requires you to band together with others of varying degrees of unanimity.
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 3, 2014
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your_vote_counts_400_clr-300x300Tomorrow millions of Americans will to the polls to cast their votes. And many other millions of Americans will not.

Why bother voting when no individual vote makes a difference in any election or political decision? Why bother casting a vote that has no meaning? ​Micah Watson, director of the Center for Politics and Religion and associate professor of political science at Union University, provides an answer:

The first thing to say about such an objection is that it’s a odd way to think about doing anything with a communal element. I may as well decide not to recycle because my individual effort alone will not clean the environment. Nor will my modest charitable gift solve poverty in my community, let alone my country or the world. Yet the combined efforts of Christians can have a staggering effect when taken together, when individuals do not think of their actions entirely through an individualistic lens.

My country­­­, my state, and my town ask for a relatively minor effort on my part to contribute to the common good by expressing my views in the voting booth. Surely the test of whether I submit to this request cannot turn on whether my decision will by itself determine the entire issue.

And there are other reasons for voting. Voting is one measure whereby we learn what it would mean to promote the common good in our particular community. It’s a small but tangible exercise that can lead to even greater involvement in cultivating a just and merciful society. Moreover, we are in good company when we carry our witness about the good into the public square.

Read more . . .