Category: Public Policy

Yesterday was the fortieth anniversary of Johnny Cash’s live recording of the album At Folsom Prison. On the 1999 re-release, the brief song “Busted” (originally recorded by Cash in 1962) was included.

And while the price of cotton is more like 50 cents per pound now (which is much lower than the cost of inflation over the same period), the song still speaks to the situation of many folks today:

“My bills are all due and the babies need shoes but I’m busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound and I’m busted
I’ve got a cow that went dry and a hen that won’t lay
A big stack of bills that get bigger each day
The County will haul my belongings away I’m busted!

I went to my brother to ask for a loan I was busted
I hate to beg like a dog for a bone but I’m busted
My brother said there ain’t a thing I can do
My wife and my kids are all down with the flu
And I was just thinking of calling on you I’m busted!”

Something of note in that tune penned by Detroit native Harlan Howard: when in need, the man turns to his family first (not the government).

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, January 10, 2008

Alan Donagan, the moral philosopher, in his text The Theory of Morality reflects upon Genesis 1:26 (“Let us make mankind in our image…”). This text can be seen, he writes,

as an affirmation that the earth and all that is on it exist for the sake of the rational beings who live in it; that is, for the sake of man. Yet mankind at large, like any limited human society, is a partnership of the living with the dead and the unborn. The right of the living to use the earth does not entitle them to despoil it. They must respect those who come after them, and not their contemporaries only.

It’s a good thing to remember, and not just with respect to the care of the earth as specifically concerns the environment, but with stewardship of other things, such as oure shared culture, religious doctrine and tradition, and as Dr. J. and others have written recently, fiscal and monetary responsibilities.

Robert Samuelson is absolutely right in today’s column. The next generation faces an increasing proportion of the Federal budget that goes to pay the expenses of retired workers. We can’t go on like this. These costs amount to a massive barrier to fertility for the next generation:

Our children face a future of rising taxes, squeezed — and perhaps falling — public services, and aging — perhaps deteriorating — public infrastructure (roads, sewers, transit systems). Today’s young workers and children are about to be engulfed by a massive income transfer from young to old that will perversely make it harder for them to afford their own children.

That is, we are signing up to look like Europe. Samuelson continues:

No major candidate of either party proposes to do much about this, even though the facts are well-known.

Spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — three programs that go overwhelmingly to older Americans — already represents more than 40 percent of federal spending. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office projects these programs could equal about 70 percent of the present budget by 2030. Without implausibly large budget deficits, the only way to preserve most other government programs would be huge tax increases (about 40 percent from today’s levels). Avoiding the tax increases would require draconian cuts in other programs (about 60 percent). Workers and young families, not retirees, would bear the brunt of either higher taxes or degraded public services.

I agree with Samuelson. We need to act now to make the necessary corrections. I am a Baby Boomer. I’ve been talking about this, and I must say, planning around these facts for my entire adult life. It’s time to act.

Crossposted at my blog.

I’m a big fan of Touchstone’s blog and the posts of senior editor S. M. Hutchens in particular. A very deep guy. That’s why I was intrigued when I found a book review of his in the New Atlantis entitled "The Evangelical Ecologist" while googling myself (if that doesn’t sound too crude).*

He’s responding to E. O. Wilson’s The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, in which Wilson

asks the imaginary Baptist pastor to whom the book is addressed to search his faith for reason to make common cause in earth-saving with Wilson’s own secular humanism, the dogmatics of which assert that “heaven and hell are what we create for ourselves on this planet.

Wade through Hutchens’ dialectic and what emerges is a fantastic insight into how easily the Church can be gripped by the humanistic evangelism of the environmental movement, where conservation of Creation is an end in and of itself, and God’s privilege to destroy and remake the earth becomes as much of an anethama to us as Peter’s revulsion to the Cross.

Get thee behind me, satan!

The Westminster Catechism "suggests" the chief end of man is to glorify God, but it’s pretty easy to find ourselves absorbed in thinking a green earth is an end rather than a means. Similarly, our common use of Psalm 24 to proclaim God’s ownership – and by extension, proclaim our stewardship – rarely sweeps us into verses 3-4 (only the pure in heart stand in God’s holy presence), let alone verses 7-10 (Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle…). But it should.

No, not should. It must, because He Is.


HE’S ALSO FOUND the spot that I couldn’t itch the past couple of trips to Boise. [Click and scroll down for my thoughts under Ed Brown’s lecture notes. db]. There I found myself among Christ-loving people who earnestly believe God would never, could never, destroy the earth as we know it to establish a New One, but instead wants the Church to serve and redeem the planet through our charitable stewardship.

Here’s Hutchens’ reaction to this sort of thinking:

Here, then, is the first inescapable offense Christianity gives to earth-piety: the earth as we know it empirically is not a final thing but a first creation. The second offense is that Christianity’s principal reason for the earth’s existence is to serve the cause of human redemption, to be defined and carried out not by what seems reasonable to man, but the purpose and method of God. The earth is presented to the faith as sacramental, and as sacrament its end is to be consumed so that a second and higher Creation may come. Its end is as the end of man who has been made from and returns to its dust, who must pass away so the Second and Eternal Man can arise to take his place in a new heaven and earth, the old having passed away. It is difficult to exaggerate the breadth and depth of the chasm that exists between biblical religion and earth-piety.

Thinking of the earth (and all those bullocks!) as a sacrament to be consumed might jive with the Old Covenant but doesn’t exactly lash up with John 3:16, where Christ’s sacrifice is by definition substitutional and given for "the world." And what about those who never returned to dust? Will Enoch or Elijah single-handedly keep Christ from assuming the throne? Not likely.

Regardless of which perspective you take on God’s ultimate intent for the planet just chewing on both is pretty humbling. It gets me to my knees in an earnest prayer to ask for wisdom to do whatever He wants me to do with the earth today, that His will will be done. And maybe that’s the point of such an exercise.

In the end Hutchens offers a scriptural antidote ("Let me suggest that the rule for proper treatment of the biosphere contemplated by the scriptures is not based in consideration of biological life itself, but upon the law of love of God and neighbor…"), an encouraging word on the good to be gained when all men recognize God’s majesty in nature, a reminder that all things are ultimately governed by God’s will, and a warning that the tendency of humansim is invariably worship of creation rather than Creator.

I appreciated getting all four of these today. Absorb the whole article when you have some time.


*No, in case you’re wondering, he didn’t ask me whether "The Evangelical Ecologist" was protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License [Exodus 20:15], or whether I thought it was o.k. to be associated with an atheist like E. O. Wilson. But hey – that’s what grace is all about, right?

Blog author: dwbosch
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What a perfectly optimistic way to begin the new year, via Hampton Univeristy Professor Cuker in

Jesus shared the earth with no more than 400 million other souls, Thomas Jefferson with about 1 billion contemporaries, and at projected population growth rates, our children will live with 9 billion others by mid-century. Such rapid population growth can not go on endlessly. Humans, like all other species, can only populate up to the carrying capacity of the environment. Carrying capacity is set by availability of resources (food, water, places to live) and sometimes by the build-up of toxic metabolic wastes. However, as populations approach their carrying capacity, growth often slows as a consequence of increased mortality and lower birth rates due to disease, competition and malnutrition. And for humans we can add the scourge of wars fought for controlling limited resources.

Our children will live in a much better world if human population growth is checked by the rational decision to reduce family size, rather than by famine, epidemics and war. [snip]

When contemplating ways to reduce your carbon footprint, be sure to include contraception on the list along with fluorescent light bulbs and a hybrid car.

Support candidates for public office who embrace family planning and the environment. Regulate the number of your own children. To leave a better world for those you create, vote wisely, conserve and love thoughtfully.

Lots of interesting comments below the article. My two cents:

$0.01 = Those advocating population control are never the first to volunteer to leave the planet.

$0.01 = Since 2004, US per-capita growth is neutral (2.0 kids). All our growth, as in much of the industrialized world, is by immigration. US population is a small fraction of world population growth.

Oh, and "Love thoughtfully" in the same commentary as a plea for population control? That’s just fascinating. At least he admits there was a Jesus.

[Don’s other habitat is]

I guess I’ll do the honors for first post of the year once again

Availability cascade:

An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation by which an expressed perception triggers a chain reaction that gives the perception increasing plausibility through its rising availability in public discourse. The driving mechanism involves a combination of informational and reputational motives: Individuals endorse the perception partly by learning from the apparent beliefs of others and partly by distorting their public responses in the interest of maintaining social acceptance. Availability entrepreneurs-activists who manipulate the content of public discourse-strive to trigger availability cascades likely to advance their agendas.

John Tierney notes that while 2008 may just be underway, we’re smack dab in the middle of a global warming cascade:

Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.

Global warming has an impact on both polar regions, but they’re also strongly influenced by regional weather patterns and ocean currents. Two studies by NASA and university scientists last year concluded that much of the recent melting of Arctic sea ice was related to a cyclical change in ocean currents and winds, but those studies got relatively little attention — and were certainly no match for the images of struggling polar bears so popular with availability entrepreneurs.

Roger A. Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, recently noted the very different reception received last year by two conflicting papers on the link between hurricanes and global warming. He counted 79 news articles about a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and only 3 news articles about one in a far more prestigious journal, Nature.

Guess which paper jibed with the theory — and image of Katrina — presented by Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”?

It was, of course, the paper in the more obscure journal, which suggested that global warming is creating more hurricanes. The paper in Nature concluded that global warming has a minimal effect on hurricanes. It was published in December — by coincidence, the same week that Mr. Gore received his Nobel Peace Prize.

Via Newsbusters, where surprise is expressed over the fact that such an article would appear in the New York Times. It’s really no surprise, though; Tierney is one of the few columnists who will occasionally pierce the veil of left-wing opinion that dominates the Times.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In this week’s Acton Commentary I examine “The Truth about Tithing.”

“Whatever benefits we claim to receive from tithing, whether spiritual, emotional, or financial, these are not to be the reason that we give. We give out of obedience to God’s word,” I write.

Here’s a link to a Marketplace Money report from last Friday that was the proximate occasion for the piece, “Tithing can be a good investment.” It’s a pretty disgustingly caricatured picture of tithing we get from the Marketplace report.

One more bit of evidence that the press just doesn’t “get” religion.