Category: Public Policy

2787733The second-hand clothing industry in parts of Africa is big business. In fact, many charities receive substantial revenue from the sale of these clothes. Why buy a t-shirt for 10 dollars when you can buy one for 32 cents? These trends should come as no surprise to Americans because consignment shops and thrift stores are plentiful. However, the difference is that in many parts of Africa second-hand clothing is the primary means of buying clothes and is, therefore, inadvertently stifling the growth of local African economies. Sadly, charities are playing a role in killing this growth.

For example, CNN just ran a story about how Americans sending over old clothes is killing Africa’s economy:
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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bitcoin-coinsWe’ve had some intriguing discussion about Bitcoin at the Acton Institute offices today. It is certainly a phenomenon worth greater attention, and something of significant cultural, social and economic import. But I’m not buying Bitcoin, at least not yet.

My initial skepticism is in part due to my lack of familiarity with the details of the currency and its formation. I certainly need to learn more.

But also in large part my skepticism is due to my doubt about the productiveness of the effort that generates the currency. Is it merely fiat money without the pretensions? Is it the logic of subjective value-theory brought to the final conclusion? I worry that the computing power expended to mine BitCoins is vacuous and parasitic at its core. It does not represent a good or service that has been provided for or contributed to anyone.

A Bitcoin has value simply because people have decided it has value. People “mine” Bitcoins because, as Whately would note, “they fetch a high price.”

But what does a Bitcoin block represent in terms of actual human utility? I worry too that this is a system that relies parasitically on real-world resources, e.g. coal which provides a large part of the electricity, which is used to run computers so that they can then in turn “mine” something entirely virtual.

What is Bitcoin teaching us, really?

If you’ve had experience with Bitcoin or thoughts about the phenomenon, please share them in the comments below.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, April 11, 2013

What is the President’s budget?

Technically, it’s only a budget request—a proposal telling Congress how much money the President believes should be spent on the various Cabinet-level federal functions, like agriculture, defense, education, etc.

federal-budgetWhy does the President submit a budget to Congress?

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires that the President of the United States submit to Congress, on or before the first Monday in February of each year, a detailed budget request for the coming federal fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

If it’s due the first Monday in February, why are we just now hearing about it?

President Obama turned in his budget late—again. This will be Obama’s fourth late budget submission in five years, making him the first President to present three consecutive late budgets. According to the House Budget Committee, “All presidents from Harding to Reagan’s first term met the statutory budget submission deadline in every year.” Reagan and Clinton both missed their deadlines once in eight years.

What is the function of the President’s budget request?

The President’s annual budget request serves three functions:
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According to a new study, private religious schools perform better than both public schools and public charter schools. William Jeynes, professor of education at California State University at Long Beach and senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton, told the Christian Post that he found religious, mostly Christian, school students were a full year ahead of students who attend public and charter schools.

Could the results be due to religious school parents being move involved in their child’s lives? Jeynes controlled for this “selection effect” and still found that religious schools perform better. He controlled for other variables too, such as socioeconomic status, gender and race, and found that students at religious schools still have a seven to eight month advantage over students at public and charter schools. According to the Christian Post:
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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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Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, April 5, 2013

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.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, April 4, 2013

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

Blog author: abradley
posted by on Thursday, April 4, 2013

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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