Category: Public Policy

Has there ever, in the history of America, been a presidential administration as dismissive of religious liberties as the Obama Administration?

contraceptive-mandateThe Administration seems to truly believe that when religious beliefs come into conflict with one of the President’s pet policies—such as employers being forced to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients—that religious liberties must be set aside. A prime example is the Administration’s idea that by forming a business entity intended to limit liability, a person loses their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

As CNSNews reports, during an oral argument in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last fall, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge that the Obama administration believed it could force the judge’s own wife—a physician—to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice.

Here is the exchange, from the official court transcript, between this Obama administration lawyer and Judge Walton:
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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, February 26, 2013

With the most recent fiscal cliff approaching this Thursday (February 28), it is worth asking, “How did we get into this mess?” My answer: a little leaven works its way through a whole lump of dough….

Touchstone Magazine
(March/April 2013) recently published my article, ”The Yeast We Can Do,” in their “Views” section (subscription required). In it, I explore the metaphor of yeast in the Scriptures—how little things eventually work their way through our whole lives and can lead to big consequences. In some cases, I point out, this is a bad thing. For example, I write,

According to Evagrios the Solitary, one of the early Christian hermits of the Egyptian desert, our spiritual struggle can be summarized quite simply: it is because we have first failed to resist little temptations that we eventually fall to greater ones. Following John the Evangelist’s warnings against succumbing to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16), Evagrios identifies three “frontline demons” in particular: gluttony, avarice, and seeking the esteem of others.

Little by little, when we give in to small temptations, they eventually work their way through our whole lives, leaving us vulnerable to bigger, related areas of temptation.

Now, how does this relate to our over $16.5 trillion national debt and annual deficits over $1 trillion for the last four years that brought us to a looming sequestration deadline, with little time to come up with some solution to drastically cut spending to get our finances under control, adversely affecting the lives of millions? Well, as I said, a little leaven works its way through the whole lump of dough. (more…)

Family, church, and school are the three basic people-forming institutions, notes Patrick Fagan, and they produce the best results—including economic and political ones—when they cooperate.

Even if all the market reforms of the Washington think tanks, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes Magazine were enacted, we’d still need to kiss the Great American Economy goodbye. Below the level of economic policy lies a society that is producing fewer people capable of hard work, especially married men with children. As the retreat from marriage continues apace, there are fewer and fewer of these men, resulting in a slowly, permanently decelerating economy.

When men get married, their sense of responsibility and drive to provide gives them the incentive to work much harder. This translates into an average 27-percent increase in their productivity and income. With the retreat from marriage, instead of this “marriage premium,” we get more single men (who work the least), more cohabiting men (who work less than married men), and more divorced men (who fall between the singles and cohabiters).

All this is visible in the changing work patterns of our country, resulting in real macro-economic consequences. Fifty years ago family life and the economy were quite different.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, February 25, 2013

Another week, another Congress-created budget crisis. First it was the sovereign debt crisis, then the fiscal cliff crisis, and now the sequester crisis. Here’s what you need to know about the sequester.

What exactly is the sequester?

In August 2011 Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) to prevent the sovereign default that could have resulted from the 2011debt ceiling crisis. The BCA not only created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the “supercommittee”) but stipulated that if the committee didn’t agree to a $1.5 trillion over ten years deficit-reduction package by Nov. 23, 2011, then sequestration of $1.2 trillion would begin on January 1, 2013 and be spread over the next ten years. (The term sequester refers to a general cut in government spending.)

Why didn’t the cuts go into effect on January 1?

Congress agreed during the fiscal cliff crisis—in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012—to push the deadline for the sequester to March 1.

What automatic cuts go into affect during the sequester?
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Trade and Mutual AidIn the forthcoming issue of Comment magazine, I examine how free trade orients us towards the good of others. In doing so, I argue against the value of pious banalities and cheap slogans. I include examples like, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” or, “When goods do not cross borders, armies will.” The latter is often attributed to Bastiat, and while it captures the spirit, if not the letter of Bastiat’s views, the closest analogue is actually found in Otto Tod Mallery: “If soldiers are not to cross international boundaries on missions of war,” wrote Mallery in 1943, then “goods must cross them on missions of peace.”

I was struck by the disconnect between ideology and reality, or between idealism and realism, in an anecdote from a recent foreign policy speech from Sen. Rand Paul. As Paul notes,

In George Kennan’s biography, John Gaddis describes President Clinton asking Strobe Talbot “why don’t we have a concept as succinct as ‘containment.’” Talbot’s response [was] “that ‘containment’ had been a misleading oversimplification; strategy could not be made to fit a bumper sticker. The president laughed… “that’s why Kennan’s a great diplomat and scholar and not a politician.”

I guess that’s also the reason that I’ll never be a politician, either. As Lord Acton observed, “Every doctrine to become popular, must be made superficial, exaggerated, untrue. We must always distinguish the real essence from the conveyance, especially in political economy.” The key for responsible governance is not to lose sight of the complexity that lies behind popular exaggerations and conveyances.

As I argue in “Trade and Mutual Aid,” the temptation to rest easy with simple formulas to complex problems is common, but must be resisted: “Divorced
from a more comprehensive conception of the human person and social flourishing, an uncritical reliance on free trade to solve the world’s problems can well become destructive.” Even so, I conclude, “Free trade is a system that imperfectly, and yet with some measure of success—as Bono and countless others are beginning to recognize anew—orients us toward the good of others.” In the course of this piece, I draw on a variety of sources, including Frédéric Bastiat, Adam Smith, John Calvin, Johannes Althusius, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Pope Paul VI, and Friedrich Hayek.

To get your copy of the Comment issue on the topic of persuasion, including my piece on the fundamental persuasive nature of exchange, “Trade and Mutual Aid,” subscribe by March 1. You’ll also find content from new editor James K.A. Smith, Anne Snyder, Jim Belcher, Ashley Berner, Jonathan Chaplin, Marilyn McEntyre, Janet Epp Buckingham, D. Bruce Lockerbie, Calvin Seerveld, Natalie Race Whitaker, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, February 21, 2013

“[He] belongs more in an insane asylum than at the head of a multinational corporation.”

beret-on-cowboyThat was the reaction by a French union official to an amusingly harsh letter by Maurice Taylor, chief executive of tire maker Titan. Taylor was initially interested in buying the French tire factory, which is facing closure following five years of unsuccessful negotiations with unions to enhance its competitiveness. However, after visiting the plant three times, he wrote a letter to France’s industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, saying: “Sir, you would like to open discussions with Titan. You think we’re that stupid?”

Taylor says the plant’s 1,173 workers “have one hour for their lunch, they talk for three hours and they work for three hours. I said this directly to their union leaders; they replied that’s the way it is in France.” The Titan CEO added:

“Titan has money and the know-how to produce tyres. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government. The French farmer wants cheap tyres. He doesn’t care if those tyres come from China or India and these governments are subsidising them. Your government doesn’t care either: ‘We’re French!’

Titan is going to buy a Chinese tyre company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tyres France needs. You can keep the so-called workers.

Taylor isn’t exaggerating the problems caused by French unions. In his new book, Becoming Europe, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg writes,
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“We have to pass the bill so that you find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

Nancy Pelosi was the House Speaker when she made those remarks about Obamacare at the 2010 Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties. At the time, Pelosi was mocked for not understanding what was in the legislation she was supporting. But the reality is that with all legislation that is considered by Congress, we almost never really know what is in it until it has been passed.

obamacare-redtapeIf you took civics class in high school (or just watched Schoolhouse Rock), you likely know how a bill becomes a law. But what most people don’t understand is the process by which a law becomes policy.

We often think that the judiciary is the branch of government responsible for interpreting the law. But in reality most interpretation is done by the executive branch, through the various regulatory agencies. Regulatory agencies handle administrative law, primarily by codifying and enforcing rules and regulations. When Congress passes a new law it usually goes to a regulatory agency to determine how the law will be put in place.
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Blog author: abradley
posted by on Thursday, February 21, 2013

Brittney C. Cooper, Assistant professor of Women’s and Gender studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, writes at Ebony Magazine.com that President Obama is being unfair to the black community by pointing out that many of the violence-related pathologies in inner cities are a result of fatherlessness. Cooper objects saying,

Instead when the president began by suggesting that we need to “do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood,” I started shaking my head. Rather than empathizing with those Black families that have been destroyed by violence, he blamed the prevalence of non-nuclear Black families for contributing to it! Recycling this tired narrative about broken families and absentee Black fathers does nothing to address the steady flow of guns into our communities, nor the pathologies that lead young people to fire them.

Later on, Cooper raises a good point when she observes that although 70 percent of Black children are born to unmarried parents, this does not mean that 70 percent of Black children don’t have active fathers. Cooper concludes that the social pathologies we find in inner-city black communities are the result of economic stress. Cooper says,
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“While president, Calvin Coolidge warned Americans that if it was the federal government that came to their mind when they thought of ‘the government,’ it would prove costly,” writes Ray Nothstine in this week’s Acton Commentary. But as Nothstine points out, everywhere we turn the federal government is increasingly visible and intrusive. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Wednesday, February 20, 2013

According to Daly, Soviet government sought to dictate every aspect of life in the name of the common good, including the indexing of Soviet publications by libraries. He writes, “[I]f Soviet publications failed to end up in libraries, then, as Lenin railed, ‘we have to know precisely whom to imprison.’”

In the Winter-Fall 2012 issue of Modern Age (54, nos. 1-4), Jonathan Daly contributes a helpful exploration of what happens when desire for the common good goes bad. His article, “Bolshevik Power and Ideas of the Common Good,” focuses on the disastrously ill-conceived effort by the Russian revolutionaries to promote the common good through their self-proclaimed “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Daly contends, “The horrors of Bolshevik governance stemmed directly from their repudiation of the precious fruits of Western political thought.” It is a classic example of the tendency of some to promote cheap moralisms while ignoring the empirical realities of any given context, what then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger termed in 1985, “the antithesis of morality.” In addition to fostering mass suspicion, starvation, and ultimately a despotic police state in Russia, the Bolsheviks also have the blood of literally millions on their hands, Orthodox Christians as well many Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and others—the rotten fruit of their noble quest for the common good. (more…)