Category: Public Policy

I want to be very clear from the outset that moral concerns surrounding transgender identity are not unimportant. But in the likely event that we don’t come to any national consensus on that question any time soon, it is important not to overlook other moral and social concerns that are far more pressing. In particular, there are legitimate concerns regarding safety and privacy, no matter which side one favors, but resorting to the force of law will leave some real victims vulnerable.

On the one hand, the Anti-Violence Project’s 2014 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence found that compared to violence among the general population, “Transgender women [i.e. biologically male] survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience physical violence and 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence, when compared with other survivors.” I have seen headlines connecting this violence with restroom use in the past, but now that the issue has become politicized those stories are harder to locate. In any case, privacy and safety are real and major concerns for many. We should not be indifferent to this.

On the other hand, according to the CDC,

  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 women and men (5.6% and 5.3%, respectively) experienced sexual violence other than rape….

Again, privacy and safety are real and major concerns here. We should not be indifferent. (more…)

rules-and-regulationsIn the Old Testament there are 613 commandments. Apparently, God deemed those to be enough to regulate almost every aspect of the lives of his people for thousands of years. You could read all of them in less than 30 minutes.

The American federal government, however, is not so succinct. There are over 1 million restrictions in the federal regulations alone (i.e., not counting the statutory law). And thousands more are added every year.

Each year the Competitive Enterprise Institute puts out annual survey — Ten Thousand Commandments — that reveals the size, scope, and cost of federal regulations. Here are some highlights from the 2016 edition:
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always-be-positive-quote-1Does your boss require you to be pleasant and cheerful? Do they expect you to maintain a positive workplace environment? Are you being asked to conduct yourself in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships?

If so, your company may be violating your rights.

In their employee handbook its employee on “Workplace Conduct”, the wireless carrier T-Mobile included the clause:

Employees are expected to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships with internal and external customers, clients, co-workers, and management.

In a lawsuit against the company, a group of employees included the claim that the undefined phrases “positive work environment” and “communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships” are ambiguous and vague, and would “reasonably chill employees in the exercise” of their right to unionize.
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A few weeks ago in connection with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I looked at Lex Luthor as the would-be crony capitalist über Alles, and pointed to Bruce Wayne along with Senator Finch as the economic and political counterpoints to such corruption, respectively.

In this week’s Acton Commentary, Daniel Menjivar looks more closely at Bruce Wayne as representative of aristocratic virtue, the capitalist hero to Luthor’s crony capitalist villain. And while, as Menjivar concludes, “In cape and cowl he is a true hero, the Dark Knight. But in suit and tie, Bruce Wayne is the quintessential capitalist superhero, a shining example of corporate nobility,” Menjivar also notes that Wayne is an imperfect hero.

Threat Bruce Wayne“One clear fault is Bruce’s assumption that by simply fulfilling the material needs of the survivors he has done his part. This is most clearly evidenced in the character of Wallace Keefe, the very man that Bruce Wayne pulled from the rubble of the Wayne building in Metropolis. Wallace loses his legs in the aftermath of the battle, however, he refuses and returns all of Bruce Wayne’s checks,” writes Menjivar.
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soil-stewardship-sundayDuring the drought that struck the United States from 1934 to 1937, the soil became so badly eroded that static electricity built up on the farmlands of the Great Plains, pulling dust into the sky like a magnet. Massive clouds of dust rose up to 10,000 feet and, powered by high-altitude winds, was pushed as far east as New York City.

When the “black blizzard” hit Washington, D.C. in May 1934, Hugh Hammond Bennett — the “father of soil conservation” — was testifying before a congressional committee about the effects of soil erosion. Bennett’s testimony lead Congress to unanimously pass legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority.

But fixing soil erosion was not something the government could do on its own. As the National Association of Conservation Districts explains, “Because nearly three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land. In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts.”
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pollution-cleanedAlthough Earth Day 2016 has officially ended, the call for Christians to care for the Earth continues. For us, every day is Earth day.

Too often, though, we Christians don’t have a robust enough understanding of how to care for the environment or how that duty is connected to economics.

A decade ago, Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor wrote the best, brief explanation you’ll ever find on the connection between economics and environmental stewardship. As Ballor says, economics can be understood as the theoretical side of stewardship, and stewardship can be understood as the practical side of economics.
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We all need help thinking more clearly — you, me, U.S. Senators like Barbara Boxer, says John Stonestreet. And denying it sometimes proves the opposite.

A hearing that was held last week of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works consisted of Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Alex Epstein, the President for the Center for Industrial Progress, and Father Robert Sirico, a priest and president of the Acton Institute, among others.

The topic was how the president’s climate policies had impacted economic opportunity, national security, and related issues. As Mr. Epstein finished his testimony by telling a story from his book A Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Senator Boxer demanded: “Mr. Epstein, Are you a scientist?”

“No,” he replied. “I’m a philosopher.” When Boxer sarcastically implied that he didn’t belong in the hearing because he wasn’t a scientist, Epstein pointed out that philosophy helps folks think more clearly. Boxer snapped back, “I don’t need help thinking more clearly.”

Well, with all due respect to the good senator from California, the entire exchange demonstrated she does need help thinking more clearly, since hers was a classic example of a self-defeating set of statements. First, if philosophers do not belong in such a hearing because they are not scientists, do politicians belong who are not scientists?

Here’s the video of Rev. Sirico tangling with Sen. Barbara Boxer on the Pope, energy, and the environment.