Category: Public Policy

David Innes at World Magazine wrote a fascinating post about the nature of virtuous leaders. In discussions of what is necessary for employees to flourish at work, it is important to remember that the character of those in decision-making positions is vital for organizational productivity. Innes reminds us that the key feature of virtuous leaders is one of love. They love their employees properly and, by extension, create a life-giving work environment:

Emotionally intelligent leaders understand the relationship between emotional well-being and the capacity and motivation of people to labor for even the worthiest goals, whether individually or co-operatively. . . Transparency builds trust. No one suspects a hidden agenda because there isn’t one. Empathy is essential. A good leader senses the emotional tone of the workplace and can address discord before it deepens and spreads. Workers will be more effectively on task if they know the boss cares about them and believes their work to be valuable. He gives helpful performance reviews on his employees’ contributions. He’s a true team builder. He helps people understand and develop their strengths, and directs them to the work most suited to them. This helps him sympathize with the people he is managing. He will also foster a friendlier workplace among the employees. He’s a peacemaker. He knows he is not the sole repository of wisdom, vision, and insight. No one is. So he listens, consults, and collaborates.

Leaders who lack love create work environments that destroy trust in the long run. Once trust is lost, a manager’s ability to lead is irreparably compromised. When this happens, disaster ensues.

What, then, is the catalyst, for leadership disasters? It often comes as a consequence of teams and organizations being lead by narcissists. Researchers at Ohio State University have found that people who score high in narcissism tend to find themselves in leadership positions, especially when there are leadership voids in organizations. Narcissists are self-centered and hold exaggerated views about their talents and abilities while lacking empathy for others. Narcissists have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. They believe they are superior to others and, therefore, have little regard for other people’s feelings. When narcissists become leaders, in politics, business, schools, and the like; morale, employee productivity, and efficiency suffer.
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, April 10, 2013

“Crime has been in decline,” says Acton Research Fellow Jonathan Witt, in an article for The American Spectator, “but current government policies are bound to reverse this trend.”

Against the backdrop of sluggish growth and high unemployment, one bright spot has been declining crime rates, with levels in the United States now about half what they were 20 years ago. This gradual decline holds true even in the perennially high-risk demographic of young men, suggesting it isn’t merely a knock-on effect of an aging population. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that current government policies may reverse this downward trend.

Witt’s article will also be featured in today’s Acton Commentary.  Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Margaret Thatcher once told an interviewer, “Of course, I am obstinate in defending our liberties and our law. That is why I carry a big handbag.” During her time as Prime Minister, Thatcher’s handbag became an iconic symbol of her ability to handle opponents. The term “handbagging” even entered the Oxford English Dictionary (the verb “to handbag” is defined as: (of a woman politician), treat (a person, idea etc) ruthlessly or insensitively) to describe her rhetorical style.

Thatcher’s handbagging usually occurred during Question Time, the hour every day when members of the parliament ask questions of government ministers—including the prime minister—which they are obliged to answer. A prime example is in her last appearance as Prime Minister in the House of Commons, on November 22, 1990. Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes taunts her on the subject of income inequality.
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Many of us function under the assumption that our role as stewards of God’s creation is to to leave things as we’ve found them. Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. would disagree.

A significant error of environmentalists is the assumption that the purpose of man on this earth is to keep it in the same condition that it was when man first appeared. Behind this theory is a subtle denial of the whole issue of the resurrection of the body. Man’s ultimate end is not this earth but God. The earth and its development by man are themselves the arena in which the drama of each person’s relation to God could be and is worked out. It is also true that this “working out” concerns one’s neighbor and man’s relation to fellow man.

Further, Fr. Schall wants to make it clear that certain types of environmentalism put the environment ahead of people, and that hurts the poor. We find the basis for this in the book of Genesis in

…the admonition that man was to increase, multiply, and subdue the earth. The implication was that precisely by providing for man’s needs and purposes, the earth would be a better place. The purposes of both matter and man were directly connected. It would be a misuse of matter if it no longer could serve man’s ends. The earth was not simply given for it to sit there unused and uncultivated. It was rather to be a garden, the work of human hands. It was intended to support the purpose for which man existed. It was not itself the purpose of creation.

Fr. Schall questions whether some programs designed to help the poor actually put them under “state control”, regulating their lives to the point where they cannot escape poverty.

Read “How Environmentalism Harms the Poor” in Crisis Magazine.

“What’s a crony? It’s like having a best friend who gives you other people’s stuff.”

America’s children are in serious trouble when it comes to public education in low-income communities. All over America, more and more schools would rather cheat on standardized testing than suffer the consequences of the truth that many of their students are seriously struggling. The widespread corruption in many public school systems that predominantly serve children of color is no less than a national crisis. It seems that many public educators, like politicians, are making decisions that serve their career advancement rather than make tough decisions that serve the education needs of children.

For example, in Atlanta on April 2, 2013, Beverly Hall, former superintendent for the city’s public schools turned herself in after being indicted by a grand jury in a cheating scandal. In addition, 26 other educators had surrendered to authorities with a bond set for some Atlanta educators at $1 million. In total, 35 educators were indicted, accused of cheating on standardized testing dating back to 2001.

According to CNN,
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Martin Luther King, Jr. has to be turning over in his grave. Just when you think America may be on the path to no longer judging people on the basis of skin color, we run into nonsense like the decision last fall by the Florida Department of Education, to institute race-based education standards. According to CBS News in Tampa, the Florida Department of Education,

passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities.

This plan seems to be the exact opposite of what Dr. King died for back in 1968. What the plan clearly communicates is the soft bigotry of low expectations. In light of the logical backlash against the race-based proposal, there have been some attempts to defend the new Florida policy as something other than what it clearly is. For example, Alex Yahanda, senior associate editor for The Cavalier Daily, attempted to spin the proposal this way:
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Philip at the Solovki monastery

In the most recent issue of Religion & Liberty, the “In the Liberal Tradition” section profiles Metropolitan St. Philip II of Moscow for his defense of faith and freedom in the face of the tyranny of Tsar Ivan IV, known to history as “Ivan the Terrible.” In contrast to Ivan, who used his power to oppress his own people, Philip taught, “He alone can in truth call himself sovereign who is master of himself, who is not subject to his passions and conquers by charity.” Among the many spiritual disciplines of the Orthodox Christian spiritual tradition geared towards freeing a person from being “subject to his passions,” we can see Philip’s love of labor in his many projects at the Solovki monastery in the years before he was made Metropolitan of Moscow. (more…)

When I was twelve my family lived on a small, dry piece of land in rural Texas. Since we lived far outside of any city limits, we couldn’t rely on services like water (we had a well), sewage (we had a septic tank), or sanitation (we had a 12-year-old boy and a 50-gallon burn barrel). Before my weekend free-time could begin, I’d have a list of chores to get done, including burning the week’s trash and burying the ashes in a pit dug in the back field.

forks-garbage-collection-1d60cf213d2f6b3aOne terrible Saturday I learned a valuable lesson about not burning spray paint cans when the wind is gusting at speeds that would get you ticketed in a school zone. The explosion was small but the brush was dry, and the ensuing fire came perilously close to my neighbors on three sides. Fortunately, the intervention of God and the Eastland County Volunteer Fire Department contained the blaze, saving my hide and several homes.

That was the day I gained an undying appreciation for firefighters—and sanitation workers. We don’t fully value the work of “garbagemen” until we have to live without their services.

Considering that urban civilization would degenerate into chaos and disease without their labor, society is shockingly unappreciative of the men and women who maintain our system of sanitation disposal. It’s not surprising, then, that few people are eager for such a career considering the work is thankless, dirty, and dangerous. Indeed, astonishingly dangerous: Sanitation workers have twice the fatality rates of police offers, and nearly seven times the fatality rates of firefighters.

But the work also requires a special type of knowledge and intelligence. Anthropologist Robin Nagle joined the ranks of the underappreciated sanitation workers of New York City and discovered what life in the mysterious world of trash collection was really like:
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Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Chicago Public School (CPS) System have reached an agreement that the way to cover the school system’s $1 billion deficit is to restructure the system by closing 54 under-utilized schools. This type of fiscal responsibility may be prudent in the private sector but it is being protested in Chicago as USA Today reports:

Jesse Ruiz, vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, says the number of schools must be pared because many are under-utilized due to a shrinking student population — the number of Chicago residents fell by 200,418 from 2000 to 2010 — and because the district faces a $1 billion budget shortfall. About 30,000 children will be moved. Schools are currently equipped to accommodate 511,000 students; enrollment now is 403,000.

The school closing disproportionately affects African-American neighborhoods because Chicago’s population loss has been primarily in the African-American community like we are seeing in cities like New York, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. According to recent reporting,
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