Category: Public Policy

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?

In today’s Morning Sun, Bruce Edward Walker writes about the eco-encyclical’s short-sightedness when it comes to the merits of technological advancement.

To be fair, much of Laudato Si dispenses with progressive calls for population control to combat climate change, and goes to great lengths to reiterate Catholic doctrine on abortion and euthanasia and even includes a portion on human ecology wherein Francis discusses natural law regarding gender identity. Rather than wading into the muddy waters of climate-change hype, which, in any event, has been covered in previous columns, space limits me to refuting Pope Francis’ claims that Mother Earth and her inhabitants are in dire need of major government interventions that will hurt the poor and disadvantaged he seeks to assist.

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clover-power-stationWith the Supreme Court handing down significant rulings on such issues as housing, Obamacare, and same-sex marriage, it’s not surprising other decisions handed down last month received less attention. A prime example is the defeat the Court handed to President Obama administration’s agencies.

In the 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court recently struck down forthcoming EPA regulations concerning emissions of mercury and other toxins at power plants.  the Court pointed out that the EPA did not properly consider the costs of regulating such emissions from coal-fired power plants before imposing the regulations.

Congress had previously authorized the EPA to take any “appropriate and necessary” action to regulate power plants. In this case, the EPA found power plant regulation to be “appropriate” since the plants’ emissions pose risks to the environment and because controls capable of reducing these emissions were available. The agency also found regulation “necessary” because the imposition of other Clean Air Act requirements did not eliminate those risks.

But five of the nine justices found the EPA had failed to due diligence. “Read naturally in the present context, the phrase ‘appropriate and necessary’ requires at least some attention to cost,” wrote Justice Scalia in his opinion for the Court. “One would not say that it is even rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits.”
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Lake Karachay, Russia, often referred to as the most polluted lake on Earth

Lake Karachay, Russia, often referred to as the most polluted lake on Earth

At The Federalist, a round-table discussion brought up several issues regarding the encyclical, Laudato Si’. A quick reading of the discussion sees several themes emerge: the pope shouldn’t be writing about science, this encyclical comes down too heavily against free markets, and that modernity has much to offer in the way of solving humanity’s many problems.

Now, if free markets and capitalism are really to blame for pollution, it would stand to reason that those would be the countries with the worst ecological problems. That is not the case.

On the contrary, the management of the environment in communist countries has been and continues to be much worse than in capitalist ones. For example, Richard Fuller, president of the environmental non-profit Blacksmith Institute once identified the former Soviet Union as having “by far and away the worst problems…” when it comes to environmental protection and land use.

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Air-ConditioningI know why Victorian women fainted so much. They were too hot – literally. Wearing layers and layers of clothes, corseted to the point of not being able to breath, attempting to make merry in rooms draped and swathed and festooned with velvet furniture and bric-a-brac. If you think about London in the summer … you’d faint too. I will happily keep my modern clothing and my air conditioning, thank you.

Not so fast, says Pope Francis. His encyclical, Laudato Si’, suggests that air conditioning is one of those modern features that is giving us environmental woes.

Some countries are gradually making significant progress, developing more effective controls and working to combat corruption. People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive. (55)

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On Friday, the Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brasil published a Portuguese translation of Samuel Gregg’s recent article about the economic flaws in Pope Francis’s environment encyclical. Matheus Pacini of the IMB translated Gregg’s commentary, originally published June 19 in The American Spectator.

Nos dias posteriores à publicação da nova encíclica do papa Francisco, Laudato Si’ (Louvado Seja), a maioria dos comentários abordava as possíveis implicações da mesma para o debate sobre as mudanças climáticas.

Um esforço para influenciar esse discussão — sendo que boa parte dela, como Al Gore, já desapareceu das manchetes dos noticiários e se confinou a organizações internacionais, ONGs, burocratas governamentais e lobistas profissionais — é claramente parte da intenção imediata da encíclica.

Gregg is the Acton Institute’s director of research. The full Portuguese translation can be read here, and the original The American Spectator article in English is here.

 

A French translation of Samuel Gregg’s The American Spectator article on Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical was published earlier this week in Nouvelles de France. Gregg is the Acton Institute’s director of research, and the article, titled “Laudato Si': Well Intentioned, Economically Flawed,” was translated by Emmanuel d’Hoop de Synghem.

Peu avant la publication de l’encyclique du Pape François, Laudato Si, la plupart des commentaires focalisaient sur les implications et les liens qu’a cette encyclique avec le débat sur le changement climatique. Une tentative d’influencer ce débat fait clairement partie de l’objectif de cette encyclique, alors que cet exercice n’étaient plus effectué que par des organisations internationales, quelques ONG, des bureaucrates gouvernementaux et des professionels du lobbyisme. De plus, malgré les quelques intrusions dans des aspects très techniques, tel l’impact de l’air-conditionné, la véritable signification de ce long texte, ardu à lire par endroits, se situe plus généralement au niveau d’une réflexion théologique sur la relation de l’homme avec la nature.

The full translation can be found here, and the original English article is here.

calvin-coolidgeThis weekend marks the 143rd birthday of the best president you (probably) don’t know: Calvin Coolidge.

Most presidents are judged by what they do in office. For instance, they are expected to “do something” about the economy even if their actions are counterproductive and detrimental. Coolidge took a different approach: he preferred to do “nothing”—to take as much inaction as possible.

The liberal journalist Walter Lippman once wrote, “There has never been Mr. Coolidge’s equal in the art of deflating interest [in government]” and “the skill with which Mr. Coolidge can apply a wet blanket to an enthusiast is technically marvelous.” (We need a politician like Coolidge today who can lead a new Wet Blanket movement.)

Coolidge did take one notable action, though. He shrunk the government—and the American economy boomed. Is there a lesson to be learned? Award-winning author, historian, and biographer Amity Shlaes thinks so.
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Pope Francis will begin a tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay on Sunday, returning to the continent of his birth for the first time since his election in 2013 and visiting areas of extreme poverty. Peter Johnson, the Acton Institute’s external relations officer, told the Associated Press that the pontiff’s criticism of the free market neglects to account for the economic improvements made in Latin America in the last decade.

The three countries on Francis’ tour all have made economic advances over the last decade, improvements that business leaders say have come thanks, in part, to the very sort of capitalistic ventures the pope recently has criticized as materialistic.

Bolivia, for example, has cut the number of people living in extreme poverty from 37 percent to 19 percent in less than a decade due in large part to increased natural gas exports under President Evo Morales.

“Francis is constantly impugning the free market and never holding up the good that it can do,” said Peter Johnson from the Acton Institute, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based think tank focused on the intersection of economics and religion.

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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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