Category: Public Policy

eparulesA few weeks ago I wrote about how some leaders of the religious left were supporting the EPA’s proposed new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. At the time I wrote, “While there may be some religious liberals who have been duped into thinking the new proposals will actually affect climate change, most are just signaling their allegiance to the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.”

After I wrote that sentence I wondered if I had been too harsh. Was it possible that these liberal religious leaders had looked at the actual evidence and concluded that the changes would indeed affect climate change? It turns out that the answer must be “no.” There is simply no reason to believe the regulations will have an impact. In fact, using a climate model emulator that was in part developed through EPA support, researchers at the CATO Institute found that the new regulations’ effect on climate change is so minuscule as to be almost immeasurable:
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, August 14, 2014

keep-calm-and-insert-platitude-1A platitude is a flat, dull, or trite remark, especially one uttered as if it were fresh or profound. Politicians love platitudes, which is why we have laws with names like the Clean Air Act, the Pure Food Act, the Fair Sentencing Act, and the Anti-Puppy Kicking Act (okay, I made up that last one). Since no one is for dirty air, impure food, unfair sentencing, puppy-kicking, who could possibly oppose such legislation?

But the devil, as they say, is in the details. Which is why, as Donald J. Boudreau says, “Platitudes are a poor basis for policy.”

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, August 12, 2014

e5a7_canned_unicorn_meat_parts_diagram_embedThe centuries-long debate between conservatives and progressives about governance, argues Michael Munger, is essentially a disagreement about a simple concept: whether the State is a unicorn.

Unicorns, of course, are fabulous horse-like creatures with a large spiraling horn on their forehead. They eat rainbows, but can go without eating for years if necessary. They can carry enormous amounts of cargo without tiring. And their flatulence smells like pure, fresh strawberries, which makes riding behind them in a wagon a pleasure.

For all these reasons, unicorns are essentially the ideal pack animal, the key to improving human society and sharing prosperity.

The problem, of course, is that while unicorns may exist in our imaginations, they do not exist in reality. Similarly, certain progressive views of the State are like unicorns, they have the “properties, motivations, knowledge, and abilities that they can imagine for it.” The goal of the liberty movement, says Munger, is to “persuade citizens that our opponents are the idealistic ones, because they believe in unicorns. They understand very little about the State that they imagine they can design.”

To help them see reality, he offers the “Munger Test”:
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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 7, 2014

Saul Bellow, 1990Saul Bellow is a writer who has affected me profoundly before. I have recently found a pair of essays given by him as part of the Tanner Lectures under the title, “A Writer from Chicago.”

They are substantive and serious, and occasionally pithy. For instance, Bellow observes that “a degenerate negative romanticism is at the core of modern mass culture,” “Humankind is always involved in some kind of metaphysical enterprise,” and, “The descent into subhumanity begins with the thinning out of the imagination.”
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history textWhat do these things have in common: Gloria Steinem, Yiddish theater, Gospel of Wealth, U.S. Fish Commission, the cult of domesticity and smallpox? They are all highlights of American history for Advanced Placement (AP) high school students. AP classes are typically for college-bound students, and considered to be “tougher” classes. The College Board administers AP classes in high schools, and is releasing its American history framework effective this fall.

Here are some things students won’t see: the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln (other than a brief mention of his Emancipation Proclamation), or the “Greatest Generation” of World War II. Instead, students will learn:

    • “European exploration and conquest were fueled by a desire for new sources of wealth, increased power and status, and converts to Christianity”
    • “With little experience dealing with people who were different from themselves, Spanish and Portuguese explorers poorly understood the native peoples they encountered in the Americas”
    • “The resulting [American] independence movement was fueled by established colonial elites”
    • “The idea of Manifest Destiny, which asserted U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere and supported U.S. expansion westward, was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority”

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    eparulesThe New York Times has a new articled titled “Religious Conservatives Embrace Proposed E.P.A. Rules” that raises the question: are the Times’ editors irredeemably biased or are they just not all that bright?

    Presumably, you have to be smart to work for the Times, right? So it must be another example of what my friend and former Get Religion boss Terry Mattingly calls “Kellerism.” Mattingly coined the term Kellerism in homage to former Times editor Bill Keller, who said that the basic rules of journalism no longer apply to coverage of religious, moral, and cultural issues.

    Unabashed Kellerism can be the only explanation for using a headline about religious conservatives embracing EPA rules on a story in which not a single religious conservative is quoted as supporting the proposed new EPA rules.

    Let’s look at who they try to pass off as “religious conservatives”:
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    Blog author: mvandermaas
    posted by on Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Crucible of Poverty

    Stuart Ray, Donn Weinberg, and Anielka Munkel discuss solutions to poverty – July 17, 2014

    On July 17th, the Acton Institute hosted a panel discussion titled “The Crucible of Poverty: Perspectives from the Trenches.” The discussion examined the issue of poverty, with a focus on what strategies for poverty alleviation have worked, what strategies have failed, and how we can better help the most vulnerable among us.

    The panelists for the discussion were Mr. Stuart Ray, Executive Director of Guiding light Mission in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Mr. Donn Weinberg, Executive Vice President of The Harry and Jeanette Wienberg Foundation; and Ms. Anielka Munkel, Project Manager here at the Acton Institute, and a co-producer of the PovertyCure DVD series.

    The discussion ranged from analysis of the roots of poverty in west Michigan to questions of federal policy relating to poverty, and how foundations can ensure that grant recipients are actually pursuing the goals supported by foundations.

    The full discussion is available via the audio player below.

    Blog author: jcarter
    posted by on Monday, July 28, 2014

    Labor unions can be a force for good, especially in protecting the interest of workers against exploitation. But as with any human institution, unions can become harmful to the common good. That is particularly true with teachers unions, which often promote the self-interests of their members even when they are antithetical to the interests of students.

    In this 5 minute video, Terry Moe, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, outlines the problem of teachers unions and offers solutions to how it can be fixed.

    immigration pledgeIn a commentary for the National Catholic Register, Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg considers the topic of immigration, specifically the current U.S. border crisis. Gregg views the border crisis through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, which he says gives us a principled and thoughtful (as opposed to emotional) framework.

    We also have a rich tradition of teaching about political questions that embodies principles based upon the Gospel and the natural law: principles that lay Catholics have the primary responsibility, as Vatican II underscored, to apply to complex subjects such as immigration.

    Catholic teaching on immigration contains many exhortations to be merciful. Indeed, the commandment to love our neighbor often means we’re required to go beyond the strict demands of justice, albeit not in ways that violate justice. At the same time, the Church articulates a framework for thinking — rather than merely emoting — through the immigration issue in a manner consistent with Catholic concerns for liberty, justice, human flourishing and the common good. And part of this involves affirming that there is a right — albeit not an unlimited right — to migrate.

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    155150979_read_the_bill_postcard_xlarge“I’m still floored that it’s controversial or debatable to say that politicians should read and understand bills before voting them into law.”

    That quote, from a tweet by Washington Post writer Radley Balko, might provoke sympathetic nods of agreement or sneers of derision from Americans familiar with D.C. politics. But sadly, he’s right. It is controversial—and has been for at least a decade. In fact, you are more likely to hear people make the argument that they shouldn’t waste their time reading the bills they vote on.

    A prime example is an article Slate political correspondent John Dickerson wrote in 2009. The subhead of Dickerson’s piece says it all: “The case for not reading the legislation you’re voting on.” The gist of his rationale—which is shared by many people in the legislative branch—can be boiled down to these five points:
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