Category: Public Policy

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, July 17, 2015
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graffiti_litter“Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact,” said G. K. Chesterton. “The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes.”

Recognizing the fact of sin should be the beginning of all inquiries in how we should arrange public policy. This is especially true for those of us who champion liberty. Because order is a necessary precondition of liberty, we need to maintain order by limiting and impeding certain types of sinful behavior.

Throughout human history, sin has been restrained through norm, rules, customs, and laws, and traditions. Inevitably, certain individuals push back against these restrictions and complain that they hinder their own personal liberty. Sometimes this is true, of course, but more often than not it is merely an individual wanting to put their own self-centered actions and behaviors ahead of the reasonable needs of society.

Some have argued that as long as only a relatively few people break the norms and rules that it would have little to no affect on society. But this misses, as Chesterton might say, the fact of sin, especially the fact of sin as a social contagion.

Take, for example, the victimless crimes of prostitution, vagrancy, or public drunkenness. Theoretically, we could justify the decriminalization of all these acts since they do not necessarily harm other people or their property. I’m not likely to become a vagrant because I see one on the streets, so what harm does it do?

As it turns out, such actions do lead to harmful affects on society. As the renowned criminologist James Wilson notes:
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Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Istituto Acton in Rome, talked to Voa News yesterday about the flaws in Pope Francis’s pronouncements on free markets and globalization, as articulated in the recent encyclical Laudato Si’.

“When the pope says that this economy kills, that this economy destroys the environment, I’m not quite sure what economy he’s talking about,” said Jayabalan.

Read the full article here.

opm-hackLast month the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that because of a cybersecurity breach, the records of 4 million citizens had been stolen by unknown hackers. Yesterday, the OPM released its official damage assessment, and it turns out the number is much, much larger: 21.5 million, or 1 in every 15 Americans.

Despite the colossal failure, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta told reporters she will not resign and won’t fire her chief information officer. In fact, the Obama Administration doesn’t seem to be holding anyone—other than the perpetrators—responsible for a leak that exposed even the records of the FBI Director James Comey. (UPDATE: Today, Archuleta decided that she will resign after all.)

“I’m sure the adversary has my SF-86 now,” said Comey. “My SF-86 lists every place I’ve ever lived since I was 18, every foreign travel I’ve ever taken, all of my family, their addresses. So it’s not just my identity that’s affected. I’ve got siblings. I’ve got five kids. All of that is in there.”

Here is what you need to know about what some have called the “cyber Pearl Harbor.”

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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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