Category: Public Policy

failureIn 2002, fewer than one in four Americans were dissatisfied with the nation’s system of government and how well it works. Since then that level of discontent has been steadily increasing. Last year the number who said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied reached 65 percent.

The primary reason for our disgruntlement is the government’s record of failure. As Peter Schuck explained in his recent book Why Government Fails So Often, ‘government failure’ is neither a political creed nor a reactionary slogan—it’s an empirical fact.

In a recent analysis paper, Chris Edwards lists five reasons why failure of the federal government is endemic:
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1_123125_123090_2077062_2085126_030702_marriage.jpg.CROP.original-original“Why don’t we just get government completely out of the marriage business?”

For decades, if someone asked that question it would be a safe assumption it was coming from a libertarian. Shifting marriage to private contracts that didn’t require the government’s imprimatur has long been an issue championed by those who lean libertarian. But the rise of same-sex marriage—and it’s threats to religious liberty—have caused many others, especially Christian conservatives, to ask if that’s not the best solution to the problems that stem from state and federal government’s redefining of marriage.

The answer is no—privatizing marriage is a terrible idea. It’s rooted in the flawed assumption that marriage is essentially a religious institution, and that it should therefore be left in the hands of religious organizations. The belief is that by keeping government out of what is religious by nature prevents it from being politicized. What this perspective fails to realize is that marriage belongs to neither religion or the state. Marriage is both a pre-political and pre-religious institution that was instituted by God before any formal government or religious institutions were created.
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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, July 23, 2015
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benevolence farmsIn today’s American, nearly a quarter million women are incarcerated, primarily for drug-related or non-violent crimes. That’s roughly an 800 percent increase in the past 30 years. And female felons don’t have any easier a time finding work than their male counterparts. Typically, about half of those released from prison have no stable home, no transportation … and few legal job skills. Many of these people struggle with addiction and/or mental health issues as well.

One woman, a social worker-turned-entrepreneur in North Carolina, has found a way to join her passion for fresh food with her passion for helping these women. Tanya Jisa now oversees Benevolence Farm,

nestled in pastoral lands west of Durham, N.C., which will serve as a transitional living program for just released female ex-convicts. For a period of six months to two years, these women will learn about how to operate the farm, growing their own food along with produce to be sold at farm stands, farmers markets, and local grocery stores.

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ssn-gunsThe Obama administration is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they lack the mental capacity to manage their own financial affairs.

When I first heard this claim, I assumed it must be a false rumor circulating on social media and less-than-reputable websites. Instead, it turns out, if the L.A. Times can be trusted, to be true account of the White House’s intentions.

The push is intended to bring the Social Security Administration in line with laws regulating who gets reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is used to prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the country illegally and others.

A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”

There is no simple way to identify that group, but a strategy used by the Department of Veterans Affairs since the creation of the background check system is reporting anyone who has been declared incompetent to manage pension or disability payments and assigned a fiduciary.

According to the LAT, the policy change would affect about 4.2 million adults who receive monthly benefits that are managed by “representative payees.”

The first question the Obama administration should have asked before implementing the “solution” was “Is there a problem?” Are there currently a lot of Social Security recipients who pose a threat to themselves and others by owing a firearm?” The second question they needed to ask was if incompetency in financial matters is the standard, must they also take guns away from everyone in Congress?
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Michael Severance, operations manager for Istituto Acton in Rome, wrote an article for Catholic World Report examining the economic concept of scarcity in light of Laudato Si’ and Pope Francis’s trip to South America.

Severance focuses on the pope’s efforts to promote a culture of self-control and asceticism and specifically analyzes the implications of paragraph 222 of the encyclical, where Francis writes: “We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that ‘less is more’”(222).

Acknowledging the difference in perspectives between ecologists and economists, Severance explains how theories of scarcity and “finiteness” apply to the current ecological debate. He concludes that there is merit to the optimistic side of the conversation, which “[trusts] in human capacity to deal inventively with the increasing demands on scarce goods while balancing environmental concerns.”

Do we want less of everything in order to return to some pure form of Eden-like abundance, to go back to the original state of nature free of the high demands of industry and consumers squeezing mother earth’s resources dry? And are we really running out of finite resources, in the first place, or actually creating more because of human ingenuity?

Read the full text of “Is Less Really More? Reflections on Scarcity in Laudato Si'” here.

sen.scottLast week Senator Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) proposed an amendment to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind bill that would allow Title I funds–the funds the federal government allocates to districts with high-poverty populations–to follow students out of their assigned district schools to schools of choice.

Democrats in the Senate (joined by six Republicans) successfully fought to keep the portability amendment as well as school vouchers out of the legislation. As Think Progress explains, the White House and Senate Democrats opposed the amendment because some school districts with high concentrations of poverty would lose federal funds.

This certainly seems like a plausible reason to oppose the measure. After all, who wants to harm poor school districts? But as Sen. Scott notes in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, we must ensure our focus is in the right place—on the children, not school bureaucracies.

“Education is not about protecting a bureaucracy,” says Scott, “it should not be about empowering Washington, and cannot be about an endless, fruitless push for some one-size-fits-all type of system.”

Scott encouraged the Senate to allow portability and return some measure of power to the states in education, saying “Local and state leaders are figuring out that when parents have a choice, kids have a chance.”

You can hear his entire speech in the video below:
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, July 17, 2015
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graffiti_litter“Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact,” said G. K. Chesterton. “The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes.”

Recognizing the fact of sin should be the beginning of all inquiries in how we should arrange public policy. This is especially true for those of us who champion liberty. Because order is a necessary precondition of liberty, we need to maintain order by limiting and impeding certain types of sinful behavior.

Throughout human history, sin has been restrained through norm, rules, customs, and laws, and traditions. Inevitably, certain individuals push back against these restrictions and complain that they hinder their own personal liberty. Sometimes this is true, of course, but more often than not it is merely an individual wanting to put their own self-centered actions and behaviors ahead of the reasonable needs of society.

Some have argued that as long as only a relatively few people break the norms and rules that it would have little to no affect on society. But this misses, as Chesterton might say, the fact of sin, especially the fact of sin as a social contagion.

Take, for example, the victimless crimes of prostitution, vagrancy, or public drunkenness. Theoretically, we could justify the decriminalization of all these acts since they do not necessarily harm other people or their property. I’m not likely to become a vagrant because I see one on the streets, so what harm does it do?

As it turns out, such actions do lead to harmful affects on society. As the renowned criminologist James Wilson notes:
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Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Istituto Acton in Rome, talked to Voa News yesterday about the flaws in Pope Francis’s pronouncements on free markets and globalization, as articulated in the recent encyclical Laudato Si’.

“When the pope says that this economy kills, that this economy destroys the environment, I’m not quite sure what economy he’s talking about,” said Jayabalan.

Read the full article here.

opm-hackLast month the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that because of a cybersecurity breach, the records of 4 million citizens had been stolen by unknown hackers. Yesterday, the OPM released its official damage assessment, and it turns out the number is much, much larger: 21.5 million, or 1 in every 15 Americans.

Despite the colossal failure, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta told reporters she will not resign and won’t fire her chief information officer. In fact, the Obama Administration doesn’t seem to be holding anyone—other than the perpetrators—responsible for a leak that exposed even the records of the FBI Director James Comey. (UPDATE: Today, Archuleta decided that she will resign after all.)

“I’m sure the adversary has my SF-86 now,” said Comey. “My SF-86 lists every place I’ve ever lived since I was 18, every foreign travel I’ve ever taken, all of my family, their addresses. So it’s not just my identity that’s affected. I’ve got siblings. I’ve got five kids. All of that is in there.”

Here is what you need to know about what some have called the “cyber Pearl Harbor.”

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Would the denominational leadership of the Christian Reformed Church (CRCNA) rather talk about climate change than abortion or marriage?

The CRCNA has a website for that.

The CRCNA has a website for that.

Based on the launch of a denominational “Climate Change Witness Project,” which I explore at Acton Commentary today, I think this is a legitimate question. The Office of Social Justice, which is leading the project, has previously been criticized by synod for its lack of attention to life issues. A quick scan of the quarterly ministry reports since 2010 reveals no mention of abortion in the OSJ’s updates. (The CRC has yet to launch a “Life Issues Witness Project.”)

Likewise, the current executive director of the CRC, Dr. Steven Timmermans, issued a rather milquetoast statement regarding the recent SCOTUS marriage decision, while he could hardly wait to “celebrate” the papal enyclical Laudato si’ on behalf of the entire CRC.

Of course, the CRC has a website for the issues of abortion and marriage, so perhaps the CRC doesn’t need leadership on them like it apparently does for climate change. Which prompts a follow up question: if the CRC has a website, is there a need for a denominational headquarters?